If convicted of murder, John Earnest, 20, could face the death penalty, though prosecutors haven’t said what sentence they would seek.
Edited by: JV Staff
John Earnest, the now 20-year-old man charged with shooting and killing congregant Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and wounding three people, including senior Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Southern California during Passover services on April 27th again pleaded not guilty last week to the latest charges related to the attack and subsequent murder.
On Thursday, he responded to a new charging document from a preliminary hearing last month, though prosecutors made few changes from the initial charges.
If convicted of the murder charge, Earnest could face the death penalty, though prosecutors haven’t said what sentence they would seek.
Earnest is scheduled to be back in court on December 5th for a status hearing in which a trial date will likely be set.
In May, he was charged with 113 federal hate crime-related counts. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Earnest has also been charged for setting fire to a mosque in a nearby California town.
Earnest told a 911 operator in the moments after the deadly shooting that he committed the attack to save white people from Jews, according to a recording played at a preliminary hearing to determine if the case should proceed to trial a few weeks ago.
“I’m defending our nation against the Jewish people, who are trying to destroy all white people,” John T. Earnest is heard saying on the 911 call. He told the operator he believed he had killed people and gave detailed descriptions of the San Diego intersection where he was parked shortly before he was taken into custody, according to an AP report.
The recording was played at the hearing where witnesses also included a combat veteran who confronted the suspect and a medical examiner who described the wounds of the woman who was killed.
AP reported that Oscar Stewart, an Iraq combat veteran, testified that as the gunfire erupted he moved toward the suspect and screamed at him. The shooter dropped his rifle and fled.
“People were falling over each other. It was chaos,” said Stewart. “I screamed (to everyone) ‘Get down! Get out here,’” he said.
He said he saw Earnest in the lobby fire two rounds and then walked toward him.
“He was firing in front of me … I was paying attention to the rifle,” Stewart said.