A 22-year-old former nursing student will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Thursday for the fatal attack on the last day of Pesach 2019 in south California, in which one person was killed and three others injured.
An agreement with prosecutors that spares John T. Earnest the death penalty leaves little suspense about the outcome, but the hearing will give victims and families their first opportunity to address the killer directly. About 15 to 20 people were expected to deliver victim-impact statements in San Diego Superior Court.
Minutes after the shooting, Earnest called a 911 dispatcher to say he shot up the synagogue to save white people. “I’m defending our nation against the Jewish people, who are trying to destroy all white people,” he said.
The San Diego man admired the gunman who killed dozens of worshippers at two New Zealand mosques shortly before he attacked Chabad of Poway, a synagogue near San Diego, on April 27, 2019.
Earnest legally bought a semi-automatic rifle in San Diego a day before the attack, according to a federal affidavit. He entered the synagogue with 10 bullets loaded and 50 more on his vest but fled after struggling to reload.
Earnest killed 60-year-old Mrs. Lori Gilbert, Hy”d, and wounded an eight-year-old girl, her uncle and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein.
Earnest also faces sentencing in federal court on Dec. 28. He pleaded guilty to federal charges after the Justice Department said it wouldn’t seek the death penalty. Defense attorneys and prosecutors are recommending a life sentence.