SAN DIEGO – A 22-year-old former nursing student was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday for breaking into a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover in 2019 with a semi-rifle. automatic, killing one devotee and injuring three others.
A deal with prosecutors spared John T. Earnest the death penalty, but the hearing gave victims and families their first opportunity to speak directly to the killer during victim impact statements in San Superior Court. Diego.
Earnest’s lawyer said Earnest wanted to make a statement but Judge Peter Deddeh refused, saying he did not want the hearing to become “a political forum” for white supremacist views.
“I’m not going to let him use this as a platform to add to his stardom,” the judge said. There was no visible reaction from Earnest, who was looking straight ahead.
Minutes after the shooting, Earnest called a 911 dispatcher to say he blew up the synagogue to save the Whites. “I am defending our nation against the Jewish people, who are trying to destroy all white people,” he said.
The San Diego man admired the gunman who killed dozens of worshipers in two New Zealand mosques shortly before attacking Chabad of Poway, a synagogue near San Diego, on April 27, 2019. He attended 8chan , a dark corner of the internet, for those disaffected by traditional social media sites for posting extremist, racist and violent views.
Earnest legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle in San Diego a day before the attack, according to a federal affidavit. He entered the synagogue with 10 loaded bullets and 50 more on his jacket, but fled after struggling to reload.
Earnest killed Lori Gilbert, 60, who was punched twice while praying in the hall, and injured an 8-year-old girl, her uncle and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was leading a service at the big party Jewish.
The Earnest family released a statement after the shooting expressing shock and sadness, calling their son’s actions a “terrifying mystery.” Their son was an accomplished student, athlete, and musician studying to be a nurse at California State University in San Marcos.
“(Our) sadness is nothing compared to the grief and anguish our son has caused to so many innocent people,” they wrote. “To our shame, it is now part of the story of the evil that has been perpetrated against the Jewish people for centuries. “
“Our son’s actions have been informed by people we don’t know and ideas we don’t have,” the family said. “Like our other five children, he was brought up in a family, faith and community that all rejected hate and taught that love should be the motive for everything we do.”
Earnest also faces conviction in federal court on December 28. He pleaded guilty to federal charges after the Justice Department said he would not seek the death penalty. Defense lawyers and prosecutors recommend a life sentence.