The family of the suspect in the shooting at a Chabad shul in Poway, California, said attack that makes him “part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries.”
John T. Earnest, 19, was charged with murder and attempted murder in Saturday’s attack as well as arson in connection with a nearby mosque fire last month. He was expected in court Tuesday.
His parents said their son and five siblings were raised in a family that “rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do.” They said they were shocked and mystified.
“Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold,” the family said in its first public comments.
They said they were cooperating with investigators to help “uncover many details of the path that he took to this evil and despicable act.” They do not plan to provide their son with legal representation, according to their attorney, Earl Potts. A public defender will likely be appointed.
He was a star scholar, athlete and pianist whose embrace of white supremacy and anti-Semitism has dumbfounded the people closest to him.
His father, John A. Earnest, is a popular physics teacher at the public high school he attended in San Diego.
Owen Cruise, 20, saw the younger Earnest every day during senior year at Mt. Carmel High School, when they were in calculus and physics together. They were also members of the school’s amateur radio club. “Everybody loved him,” Cruise said Monday.
Earnest showed no signs of harboring dark thoughts or racist views, Cruise said, adding that he had friends who were Jewish and black.
“He was very close to his dad,” Cruise said. “He always hung out in his classroom, came to see him at lunch. He always seemed like a nice guy. … He didn’t seem like the type of person who would go off the deep end.”
His father worked at the school for 31 years and volunteered to help students with exams and homework, said Cruise, who praises his former teacher for having a big impact on his life. On the morning of the shooting, the elder Earnest was hosting a study hour for the Advanced Placement exam and brought cookies, Cruise said.
Cruise, now a sophomore at the University of California, San Diego, said Earnest lived at home and saw his parents every day.
“They only raised him to be the best man he could be,” Cruise said.