John Earnest Pleads Guilty to 113 Federal Hate Crime Charges Related to the Poway Synagogue Shooting and Mosque Arson | USAO-SDCA


For more information, contact:
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Ko (619) 546-7359 and Shane Harrigan (619) 546-6981

John T. Earnest of Rancho Penasquitos pleaded guilty today in federal court to 113 counts of hate crimes, admitting he set fire to an Escondido mosque and opened fire at a synagogue in Poway because ‘he wanted to kill Muslims and Jews. The religiously and racially motivated attacks resulted in the murder of one person and the attempted murder of 53 others.

Earnest was indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2019 on civil rights, hate crimes and firearms charges in connection with the murder of Lori Gilbert Kaye and the attempted murder of 53 others at the Chabad in Poway April 27, and March 24 arson of the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido.

“This nation stands in solidarity with the family of Lori Gilbert Kaye and the survivors of these unspeakable acts of terror,” said Interim US Attorney Randy S. Grossman. “We categorically reject the hatred, racism and prejudice of the accused, and we hope that the conclusion of this case will bring some comfort to all those affected by his heinous crimes.”

“The accused entered a synagogue with the intention of killing everyone there because of his hatred for the Jewish people, and a few days earlier he used fire in an attempt to destroy another place of sacred worship because of his hatred for Muslims, ”Deputy Attorney General Lisa said. Monegasque. “There is no place in American society for this type of heinous violence. The Department of Justice will enforce hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws to the fullest extent of the law and hold perpetrators accountable for these crimes, which inflict damage not only on individual victims, but on entire communities. “

“This guilty plea will hopefully close and begin the process of healing for all those affected by the cowardly acts of the accused nearly two and a half years ago,” the officer said. FBI Special Suzanne Turner. “The FBI stands steadfast with all of our law enforcement partners across the county in eradicating and defeating hate; It has no place in a civilized society.

“The tragic shooting at the Chabad in Poway was shocking to our community,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent Monique Villegas. “Our condolences go out to the victims and their families who have been affected by this horrific act. ATF remains committed to bringing those responsible for such acts to justice to ensure that everyone can pray safely. “

According to the plea agreement and other court documents, after several weeks of planning, on the morning of April 27, 2019, Earnest visited the Chabad of Poway synagogue, where members of the congregation were gathered for religious worship. . Earnest entered the building armed with a fully loaded Smith and Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle from a 10 round magazine. He carried a chest that contained five additional magazines, each loaded with ten rounds. Earnest opened fire, killing one person and injuring three other members of the congregation, including an 8-year-old. After Earnest emptied his initial magazine, several devotees rushed to Earnest. Earnest fled in his car and soon after called 911 and confessed that he had just “blown up a synagogue”. Earnest was apprehended by local law enforcement who found the rifle and additional ammunition in his car.

Investigators found a manifesto written by Earnest and posted online shortly before the attack. In the manifesto, Earnest made numerous anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements, including “I can only kill a limited number of Jews” and “I only wish to kill more”. Earnest wrote that he was inspired by the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., And the shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.

Earnest also admitted that on March 24, 2019, he attempted to set fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido, California, due to his hatred of Muslims and the building’s religious character. Seven missionaries slept in the mosque, but no one was hurt.

Under the terms of the plea deal, the United States and Earnest will jointly recommend a life sentence plus 30 years.

The case is being pursued by Deputy U.S. Prosecutors Shane Harrigan and Peter Ko, as well as Deputy Chief Rose Gibson of the Civil Rights Division. The FBI, ATF, and the San Diego Sheriff’s Office investigated. Grossman thanked prosecutors and law enforcement for working hard to get justice in this case.

RESPONDENT File number 19cr1850

John T. Earnest Age: 22 San Diego


Accounts 1 – 54

Obstruction of the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and bodily harm; and involving an attempt to kill, the use of a dangerous weapon – 18 USC §§ 247 (a) (2), 247 (d) (1) and 247 (d) (3)

Maximum penalty: life or death in prison and a fine of $ 250,000

Accounts 55-108

Hate Crimes Laws – 18 USC § 249 (a) (1) (B) (i) (ii)

Maximum penalty: life imprisonment and a fine of $ 250,000

Count 109

Damage to religious real property involving the use of a dangerous weapon or fire – 18 USC §§ 247 (a) (1), 247 (d) (3)

Maximum penalty: twenty years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000

Count 110

Using and Carrying a Firearm During and in Connection with a Crime of Violence Resulting in Death – Title 18, USC, Sec. and 924 (c) and 924 (j)

Maximum penalty: life or death in prison and a fine of $ 250,000

Accounts 111-113

Using, Carrying, and Unloading a Firearm During and in Connection with a Crime of Violence – Title 18, USC, Sec. and 924 (c)

Maximum penalty: life imprisonment and a fine of $ 250,000, mandatory minimum 10 years in prison


Federal Bureau of Investigation

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

San Diego Police Department

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

San Diego County Attorney’s Office

Escondido Police Department

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