Prosecutors Won’t Seek Death Penalty in Poway Shul Shooting

SAN DIEGO (AP) -
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore (L) walks past the Chabad of Poway shul, April 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Federal prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty for a 22-year-old former nursing student charged in a deadly shooting at a Southern California shul on the last day of Pesach two years ago.

The decision was disclosed Monday in a one-sentence court filing in federal court in San Diego. It comes less than two months after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland halted federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of its policies and procedures.

In July John T. Earnest pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in state court. The San Diego County district attorney’s office said at the time that he agreed to serve the rest of his life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 30.

In the federal case, Earnest submitted a conditional plea agreement for consideration by federal prosecutors in June 4, the terms of which have not been disclosed. A hearing in that case is scheduled Sept. 8.

Earnest opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle during the last day of Pesach in 2019 at Chabad of Poway. The attack killed 60-year-old Mrs. Lori Gilbert-Kaye, Hy”d, and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the shul’s Rabbi, who lost a finger.

Earnest then called 911 to say he had shot up a synagogue because Jews were trying to “destroy all white people,” authorities said.