The gunman who murdered a woman and wounded three others at the Chabad of Poway told a 911 dispatcher he had done it because “the Jewish people are destroying the white race.”
Prosecutors described the call Thursday in announcing 109 hate crime and other charges against John T. Earnest, 19. The nursing student was subdued after opening fire at the synagogue near San Diego on April 27 and killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and wounding an 8-year-old girl, her uncle and the rabbi.
U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer Jr. said the suspect could face the death penalty.
The charges against Earnest also include an earlier arson at a nearby mosque.
“We will not allow our community members to be hunted in their houses of worship, where they should feel free and safe to exercise their right to practice their religion,” Brewer said at the news conference.
A federal affidavit offered new details of the attack. It said Earnest legally bought the AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle from a licensed dealer in San Diego a day before the April 27 attack.
After entering the synagogue and emptying one 10-round magazine, he stopped to reload, according to the affidavit. Several members of the congregation, including an off-duty Border Patrol agent, took advantage of the pause to chase Earnest from the synagogue.
Earnest then called 911 from his car and told a dispatcher what he had done. He said he thought had killed some people, and the he did so because “I’m just trying to defend my nation from the Jewish people…They’re destroying our people,” according to the affidavit.
He then told the dispatcher, “the Jewish people are destroying the white race.”