White Supremacist Behind Gun Attack on California Synagogue Receives Second Life Sentence
The white supremacist who carried out a deadly gun attack on a Southern California synagogue more than two years ago received an additional life sentence in a federal court on Tuesday.
John Earnest, 22, was sentenced to life followed by 30 years of imprisonment just three months after he was handed a life sentence by a state court for the April 27, 2019 attack on the Chabad of Poway Synagogue. Three people, including an eight-year-old child, were wounded and a 60-year-old woman, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, was killed after Earnest entered the building armed with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle that was fully loaded with a 10-round magazine.
Earnest previously pleaded guilty to a 113-count indictment that included 54 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, 55 counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, and four firearms offenses.
Following Earnest’s sentencing, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the attack on the Poway synagogue was also an attack on America’s founding values.
“All people in this country should be able to freely exercise their religion without fear of being attacked,” Garland said in a statement. “This defendant’s horrific crime was an assault on fundamental principles of our nation. The Justice Department is steadfast in its commitment to confronting unlawful acts of hate and to holding perpetrators of hate-fueled violence accountable.”
According to court documents, Earnest had spent several weeks planning the attempted massacre. After he fled the scene, he called 911 and admitted to having “shot up a synagogue.”
Investigators also found a manifesto written by Earnest and posted on the internet shortly before the attack. In the manifesto, Earnest made several antisemitic and anti-Muslim statements, including expressing a desire to kill people because of their Jewish faith, and regret that he could not kill more.
Earnest had previously admitted that on March 24, 2019, he attempted to set fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, California, because of his hatred of Muslims and the religious character of the building. Seven missionaries were asleep in the mosque, but no one was injured.
Meanwhile, the daughter of murdered congregant Lori Gilbert-Kaye told a local news station that she would be willing to sit down with Earnest in person.
Hannah Kaye told Los Angeles station KTLA that it was “beyond comprehension” how Earnest — reputed to be an accomplished student, athlete and musician who was studying to be a nurse at California State University, San Marcos — had “traveled down the rabbit hole” of violent antisemitism. She then expressed a willingness to meet with him at some point.