Makeshift memorial near scene of Poway shooting
Makeshift memorial near scene of Poway shooting Reuters

John Earnest, the 19-year-old accused of shooting dead one worshipper and wounding three others at a California synagogue on Saturday, was formally charged on Monday with murder and attempted murder, with hate crime allegations, according to the AFP news agency.

Earnest will be arraigned on Tuesday, the report said.

Authorities have also charged him with arson in connection to a fire last month at an Escondido mosque.

Earnest burst into the Chabad of Poway synagogue, near San Diego, and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 60-year-old Lori Kaye. The center's rabbi was among those wounded.

Earlier on Monday, his parents denounced his actions as "evil" and said they had no clue what motivated him.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue," his parents said in a statement released by their attorney and quoted by AFP.

"But our sadness pales in comparison to the grief and anguish our son has caused for so many innocent people. He has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day.

"To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries."

"Our son's actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold," Earnest's parents said.

"Like our other five children, he was raised in a family, a faith and a community that all rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do,” said the parents.

They described their son's motivations as "a terrifying mystery" and said they were helping police uncover what had led to "this evil and despicable act."

Prior to the attack Earnest had published an anti-Semitic screed online in which he claimed responsibility for an arson attack against a mosque in the area weeks earlier.

Police investigating the shooting attack say Earnest acted alone and was not part of any organized group.