The Californian man who burst into a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover in 2019 with a semiautomatic rifle, killing one worshipper and wounding three others was given a life sentence by San Diego Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh on Thursday.
22-year-old John T. Earnest was inspired by mass shootings at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh and two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, shortly before he attacked Chabad of Poway, a synagogue near San Diego, on April 27, 2019. He frequented 8chan, a dark corner of the internet, for those disaffected by mainstream social media sites to post extremist, racist and violent views.
Earnest killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was hit twice in the foyer, and wounded an 8-year-old girl, her uncle and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was leading a service on the major Jewish holiday. Soon after his attack, Earnest called a 911 dispatcher to say he shot up the synagogue to save white people. “I’m defending our nation against the Jewish people, who are trying to destroy all white people,” he said.
As it stands, his conviction for murder and attempted murder at the synagogue and arson for an earlier fire at a nearby mosque carry a life sentence without parole, plus 137 years in prison. He also faces sentencing in federal court on Dec. 28., having pleaded guilty after the Justice Department said it wouldn’t seek the death penalty. Defense attorneys and prosecutors are recommending a life sentence.