California man sentenced in synagogue shooting and attempted mosque arson case
ErikaWittlieb / Pixabay
California man sentenced in synagogue shooting and attempted mosque arson case

A federal judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of California sentenced John T. Earnest, a California resident, Tuesday to life in prison plus an additional 30-year sentence for opening fire in the Chabad of Poway synagogue and for attempted arson of the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in 2019.

In June, Earnest pleaded guilty to a 113-count indictment, including obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs, hate crime acts, attempted damage to religious property and using, carrying and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

In response to Earnest’s sentence, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said:

By committing these heinous and senseless acts of violence against Jewish and Muslim community members, this defendant violated our most basic American ideal: all persons are created equal. The Department of Justice is committed to aggressively prosecuting bias-motivated violence and will continue partnering with state and local law enforcement to ensure that those who seek to engage in violence based on bias are held accountable for their crimes.

On April 27, 2019, Earnest entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue with a fully loaded Smith and Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle and opened fire. One person died and three were injured, including an eight-year-old child. After Earnest shot into the synagogue, congregants rushed him. Earnest then fled to his car and called the police to inform them of what he had done. When he was arrested, local law enforcement found the Smith and Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle as well as additional ammunition in Earnest’s car.

After the shooting, law enforcement discovered Earnest had written and posted a manifesto online, wherein he expressed anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments. These sentiments included Earnest’s desire to kill people of Jewish faith, as well as expressions of regret that he could not kill more people of Jewish faith.

Additionally, on March 24, 2019, Earnest attempted to burn down the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, California.  Although the mosque was occupied at the time, no one was injured.

Judge Anthony Battaglia, ordering the federal sentence to run consecutively with Earnest’s state sentence, recommended that Earnest’s sentence be served in federal prison.