Poway Attack: Mrs. Lori Gilbert Kaye, Hy”d, Killed Trying to Protect Shul’s Rav

Heavily armed San Diego police officers approach a house thought to be the home of 19-year-old John T. Earnest, who is a suspect in the shooting in the Poway shul, on April 27. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

The woman killed in a shooting attack at a Chabad shul in Poway, California, a suburb of San Diego, on the last day of Pesach was Mrs. Lori Gilbert Kaye, Hy”d, a 60-year-old woman who was among dozens who were getting ready to eat a festive Yom Tov meal when they were attacked by a man wielding an AR-type assault weapon. Three other people were injured, two of them Israelis – from the southern town of Sderot. Two of the injured were children.

Kaye, a long-time member of the synagogue, was shot when she placed her body between the shooter and the Rav of the shul, Harav Yisrael Goldstein. She was mortally wounded in the attack, and later expired from her injuries. Witnesses inside the shul said that the shooter had prepared to open fire numerous times, but that his weapon had malfunctioned.

The shooter was identified as 19-year-old John Earnest, a student at Cal State University San Marcos. He reportedly published a manifesto prior to the attack in an online forum popular with racists and anti-Semites. In the manifesto, he describes himself as a “martyr” for white people, and that he would act against “anyone who seeks the destruction of my race.” He also claimed to have previously set fire to a mosque in the California community of Escondido, and attributed his actions to support of Brenton Tarrant, who last month shot up a mosque in New Zealand. Neighbors speaking to the San Diego Union-Tribune described Earnest’s family as “fine and lovely people” who were tight-knit and active in community affairs.

A car, allegedly used by the gunman who killed one person at the Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway, is pictured a few hundred feet from the Interstate 15 off-ramp north of San Diego, April 27. (Reuters/John Gastaldo)

In his manifesto, Earnest said that while friends were likely to criticize him for “throwing my life away” with his actions, he felt he had no choice. “’You could have gone so far in your field of study. You could have made so much money and started a happy family of your own.’” I understand why you would ask this. But I pose a question to you now. What value does my life have compared to the entirety of the European race? Is it worth it for me to live a comfortable life at the cost of international Jewry sealing the doom of my race? No. I will not sell my soul by sitting idly by as evil grows,” he wrote.

Two of the injured were Israelis – an eight-year-old girl whose family had emigrated from Sderot to the United States, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, a current resident of the city. President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement Sunday morning that “we were shocked to hear about the shooting in Poway and the harm done to the Jewish community on Pesach, the festival of our freedom. It is a sad testimony to the fact that anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews continues to sustain itself everywhere. Our hearts go out to the Gilbert Kaye family, which lost Lori, and to all the families of the injured and the entire community.”

The Foreign Ministry said that the conditions of the two injured Israelis was good, and that they were being treated in a local hospital. “We will provide the families with all assistance needed,” the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles said. The Israeli consul also spoke with family members Sunday, assuring them that the government was there to assist as needed.

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