It can’t happen here? It did. Synagogue Shooter Gets Life Sentence in Plea Deal

America is full of deranged extremists. The American combination of toxic anti-Semitic thinking, the number of far right extremist groups and the easy availability of guns is  both the fuel and the match for this incendiary hatred.

Wall Street Journal 7.20.2021

A 22-year-old California man pleaded guilty Tuesday to murder and other charges in connection with a deadly attack at a synagogue in the San Diego suburb of Poway in 2019.

Just before the shooting, John Earnest posted a manifesto online in which he invoked anti-Semitic tropes to justify attacking Jews and admitted to trying to burn down the mosque.

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Killer’s victim Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60

Earnest admitted that he carried out the shooting that left one dead and three wounded on the last day of Passover because of his bias and hatred of Jews, according to the San Diego County district attorney’s office .

As part of a plea agreement, Earnest avoided the death penalty and agreed to serve the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, the office said. He also pleaded guilty to arson at a nearby mosque.

John O’Connell, a public defender representing Earnest, declined to comment

Earnest opened fire with an AR-15 style rifle in April of 2019 at the Chabad of Poway. He killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who lost his finger in the attack.

After the shooting, Earnest fled and called 911 to admit what he had done, saying, “I just shot up a synagogue. I’m trying to defend my nation against the Jewish people” authorities have said.

Earnest still faces federal hate-crime charges, including the obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs using a dangerous weapon.

The district attorney’s offices said it consulted with the family of Ms. Gilbert-Kaye as well as the survivors of the shooting before accepting the plea deal.

“While we reserved the option of trying this as a death penalty case, life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant is an appropriate resolution to this violent hate crime and we hope it brings a measure of justice and closure to the victims, their families, friends and the wider community,”  the district attorney’s office said in a statement.