Authorities secure scene of synagogue shooting in San Diego
Authorities secure scene of synagogue shooting in San Diego Reuters

A military veteran praying at the Chabad of Poway just north of San Diego on during the shooting attack Saturday was instrumental in putting an end to the deadly attack which left one member of the congregation dead and three more wounded.

When 19-year-old John T. Earnest opened fire on worshippers at the Chabad of Poway Saturday, 51-year-old Oscar Stewart, a veteran of both the US Army and Navy, dashed to the synagogue foyer and charged Earnest, forcing him to flee the scene – effectively ending the attack.

Earnest, who according to an online manifesto published in his name just before the attack accused Jews of plotting the genocide of “the European race”, burst into the synagogue during Sabbath prayer services Saturday morning and opened fire.

First hit was 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, a woman described by the congregation’s leader Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein as an “activist” who was heavily involved in the establishment of the synagogue. Kaye was fatally wounded in the attack, and was pronounced dead after being evacuated to a local hospital.

Three others, including Rabbi Goldstein, were also wounded in the attack. Rabbi Goldstein, who struggled with Earnest and attempted to pull the gun away from the shooter, lost two of his fingers during the shooting.

The rampage finally ended when Stewart charged the gunman, screaming so loud witnesses say it sounded like a “chorus of four or five men” – a sound so loud a priest at a nearby church heard it. A former army staff sergeant, Stewart served in the US Navy from 1990 to 1994, then enlisted in the Army after the September 11th attacks in 2001, and served in Iraq in 2003.

According to The Daily Caller, which spoke with Stewart and his wife, Stewart rushed the gunman, threatening to kill him.

“Get down!” Stewart screamed. “I’m going to kill you!”

Stewart says he “scared the hell” out of the shooter, forcing him to flee.

“I knew I had to be within five feet of this guy so his rifle couldn’t get to me. So I ran immediately toward him, and I yelled as loud as I could. And he was scared. I scared the hell out of him.”

“When I came around the corner into the lobby area, I saw the individual with a gun, and he fired two rounds. And I yelled at him and I must have yelled very loud, and he looked at me, and I must have had a really mean look on my face or something, because he immediately dropped his weapon and turned and ran. And then I gave chase.”

“Looking back, it was kind of a crazy idea to do, but I did it.”

The gunman ran out to his car, with Stewart in hot pursuit, pounding on the vehicle.

“I thank God for giving me the courage to do what I did,” Stewart told NBC7 San Diego. “I don’t think there’s any other reason other than God gave me the courage to do it.”

“I focused on the rifle to make sure it didn’t come up. Once I saw it go down I just ran at him and he turned and ran. I just chased him the whole time. When he saw me he had a scared look on his face. I punched the car because I saw him looking like he was going to pick up the rifle again. So I punched the car as hard as I could, and he dropped [the gun].”