The perpetrator of the Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting in April 2019 was sentenced today to life in prison without any chance of parole.
In the plea deal taken by the defendant, he avoided facing the death penalty.
On the morning of April 27th, 2019, John Earnest, a resident of San Diego, drove to the California synagogue to carry out an ambush on worshippers. He planned it over the course of several weeks, and fired a semi-auto rifle at the congregation as they were commemorating the last day of Passover.
60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye was killed in the attack and three others were wounded. Several people ran after Earnest who escaped in his car long enough for him to call 911 and turn himself in.
It was back in July of this year that John Earnest formally pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder at a hearing at San Diego Superior Court. He also pled guilty to attempted arson of Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, California, which happened a month prior to the Poway attack.
The New York Times outlined how witnesses and relatives of the victims in the attack got one last chance to face Earnest. He had to sit there in the courtroom with his back facing them as they came forward to confront him.
According to the Associated Press, Judge Peter Deddeh refused John Earnest the chance to make a statement because he didn't want the hearing to become a platform for his politics.
One of the people who got to speak at the hearing was Lori Kaye’s daughter, Hannah. She reportedly waited over two years for a chance to confront Earnest over the killing of her mother. The day of the attack, Hannah said she remembered hugging her Mom, saying some prayers together, and then going to sit for worship.
“Suddenly, in an instant, the earth literally shifted,” Hannah recalled. With the “taste of gunpowder [entering her] mouth,” she recollected watching her mother die in the synagogue hallway as her father tried to resuscitate her.
A manifesto that Earnest posted online prior to the synagogue attack said that he was radicalized by both 2018’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, as well as the then-recent massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand.
In mid-September the Department of Justice previously announced that John Earnest pleaded guilty to 113-counts of federal hate crime charges. On December 28th this year it’s expected that he’ll face additional punishment.