A man suspected of opening fire in a Southern California synagogue last spring told a 911 operator in the moments after the shooting that he did it to save whites from Jews, according to a recording made Thursday at a preliminary hearing. to determine if the case should proceed to trial.
One woman was killed and three were injured in the shooting, which took place in the Chabad Poway synagogue on the last day of Easter.
"I am defending our nation against the Jewish people who are trying to destroy all whites," John T. Earnest heard on the 911 call. He told the operator he believed he had killed people and gave detailed descriptions of the San Diego intersection. where it was parked just before being arrested.
The recording was played at the hearing, where witnesses also included a combat veteran who confronted the suspect and a coroner who described the dead woman's injuries.
Earnest, 20, pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder and unrelated arson charges in a mosque. The murder charge, classified as a hate crime, would make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted, but prosecutors have not said what punishment they will seek.
Oscar Stewart, a combat veteran in Iraq, testified that when the gunfire erupted, he approached the suspect and shouted at him; the shooter, who dropped his rifle and fled.
"People were falling over each other. It was chaos," said Oscar Stewart. "I shouted (to everyone): 'Get down! Get out of here,'" he said.
He said he saw Earnest in the lobby fire two rounds and then walked toward him.
"He was shooting in front of me … I was watching the rifle," Stewart said.
While the shooter struggled to reload, Stewart said, he relied on combat training to yell at the attacker and try to shake him off.
"I told him I was going to kill him … I screamed out loud. I kept screaming at him," Stewart said before the suspect dropped the rifle and fled.
While calling 911, Earnest said, without warning, that he would leave his AR-15 rifle in the passenger seat and get out of the car as soon as police arrived and was agitated that the police had not yet arrived.
"You're taking too long," he is heard saying.
San Diego Police Officer Jonathan Wiese testified that when he arrived, Earnest got out of the car, knelt on the floor when ordered and handcuffed.
"His first statement was:" How is your day? " Said Wiese. He said Earnest asked if he knew "what the Jews did to our race."
Weeks earlier Earnest tried to set fire to a mosque in Escondido, where seven people in a spiritual retreat were sleeping, according to one statement. They woke up in flames and managed to put out the fire.
Outside the mosque, the suspect had scribbled the name of the man suspected of shooting two mosques in New Zealand that killed 51 people earlier this year.
Officials said Earnest frequented dark corners of the web that often post extremist, racist and violent views. In one post, he said, "As an individual, I can only kill so many Jews."
The day before the synagogue shootout, Earnest bought a Smith & Wesson AR-15 rifle at a San Diego gun shop, according to federal charges. Officials said he bought the gun legally.
Dr. Steven Campman, a San Diego County deputy coroner, testified earlier about the 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye autopsy, which was shot and killed by two rifle shots.
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