‘Face to face with this murderer’: Security boosted at mosques, synagogues after shooting; rabbi recalls terror

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A shooting at a synagogue outside San Diego where worshippers were celebrating the last day of Passover sent four people to the hospital Saturday, but the extent of their injuries was not clear, officials said. (April 27)
AP, AP

POWAY, California – Authorities increased security Sunday at houses of worship one day after a teen gunman killed one woman and injured a rabbi, a child and another man during Passover celebrations at a San Diego-area synagogue.

“We don’t condone threats and acts of violence against places of worship. We are a county that is welcoming of all faiths,” San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said after the shooting Saturday evening. President Donald Trump called the attack a hate crime and promised full federal cooperation.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who suffered defensive wounds to his hands, on Sunday recalled the moment of terror when the shooter confronted him. Goldstein was in the middle of his Saturday sermon at the Chabad of Poway when he heard loud noises and became “face-to-face with this murderer, this terrorist” when he turned around, he said during a phone interview Sunday on “Today.”

Goldstein said he put his hands up to protect himself and lost one of his fingers in the shooting.

More: What we know about the California synagogue shooting

Accused gunman John T. Earnest, 19, of San Diego, is a nursing student at Cal State University San Marcos who lived about seven miles from the synagogue. Gore said Earnest posted an online “manifesto” in which he criticized Jews and also celebrated the slaying of 50 Muslims at shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month.

The attack came exactly six months after 11 people were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue. The manifesto echos common white supremacist themes.

Lori Kaye, 60, was killed in the shooting. Authorities said a 34-year-old man and a young girl were also hit by shrapnel.

About 1,000 people of multiple faiths gathered Saturday night for a vigil at the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church, about a mile from the synagogue.

The suspect is accused of opening fire with an AR-style rifle at the synagogue shortly after services began Saturday morning. Passover celebrations are among the most important in the Jewish faith.

More: ‘People running everywhere’: 1 dead, 3 wounded in Passover shooting at synagogue near San Diego

“We will not be broken. This is not going to break us,” said Fred Nasseri, who usually attended services at the synagogue but who was not present during the shooting.

Nasseri said Kaye was “very giving, kind. She was an angel … I’ve known her for 25 years and I can say nothing but good things about her … the community lost a great soul.” He said she was married and had a daughter.

Authorities said an off-duty Border Patrol agent working security at the synagogue fired at the suspect during the attack, hitting his car. The suspect then fled and was arrested without incident about two miles away.

Officials planned an increased law enforcement presence at synagogues and mosques in the area, but Gore encouraged the public to continue with scheduled services and events on Sunday.  

More: San Diego synagogue shooting: What we know about suspect John Earnest

Earnest is also being investigated in connection with the arson at a mosque in nearby Escondido last month, officials said. In that incident, a fire broke out at 3:15 a.m. on March 24 at Dar-ul-Arqam mosque, also known as the Islamic Center of Escondido.

Contributing: The Associated Press 

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