April 27, 2019, saw another instance of antisemitism in America as 19-year-old California State University student, John Earnest, opened fire at Chabad Synagogue in Poway, CA. Injuring four and killing one, it was the dead, 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who prevented further casualties with her heroism.
Lori Gilbert Kaye
On the convergence of the last day of Passover, Shabbat, and the six-month anniversary of the synagogue shooting that took place in Pittsburgh, Earnest entered Chabad’s Synagogue at 11:30 A.M. with an assault rifle and began to shoot at both the Rabbi and the congregants of the Temple alike. It was when Kaye saw Earnest aim his weapon at the Temple’s founding Rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, 57, that she unflinchingly stepped in between the two, taking the bullet that would have ended Rabbi Goldstein’s life. Thanks to Kaye’s heroism, however, Rabbi Goldstein has emerged from the incident with comparatively minimal damage, having sustained gunshot wounds to both index fingers. He was taken to the Palomar Medical Center where a Doctor prognosticated the loss of his right index finger. Kaye’s husband, a doctor, rushed to the scene of the crime to treat victims upon hearing the news of the shooting, fainting as he arrived on the scene and learned that his wife had given her own life to save that of the Rabbi’s. Kaye also leaves behind a bereft 22-year-old daughter, as well as a grieving and grateful congregation. Rabbi Goldstein shared his opinion of Kaye’s bravery with a group of reporters at a press conference on April 28, 2019, staying, “in my own interpretation, Lori took the bullet for all of us. She died to protect all of us”.
An Admission Of Guilt
Earnest fled the scene after firing several rounds, leading those investigating the incident to surmise that Earnest’s gun malfunctioned. Earnest’s car was then marked by an off-duty Border Patrol Agent attending the Passover service who ostensibly followed Earnest out of the Synagogue in an attempt to shoot Earnest, himself, but instead getting Earnest’s vehicle as he escaped the scene. However, Earnest’s escape didn’t last long as he soon pulled over to the side of the road where he called authorities with his location and information about his role in the shooting and awaited his arrest. The incident is currently being investigated by San Diego police as a homicide due to the death of the heroic Kaye, but San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore has reported that it is also being looked into as possible hate crime.
A Hate Crime
The investigation into the shooting unearthed a disturbing post on the message board 8chan from someone who claimed to be the shooter. The poster, who is most likely Earnest, made reference to the shooting, providing a link to a Facebook account where he claimed a livestream of the shooting would be available, as well as an anti-semitic manifesto that is currently under review by investigating police. While police were alerted by multiple people who viewed the post on 8chan, police were unable to find the poster before the shooting occurred. A spokesperson from Facebook commented on the incident and Facebook’s potential involvement, stating that, while they were unable to find a video associated with the Facebook account that was linked to on 8chan, if they do it will be immediately taken down as it is a violation of Facebook’s Community Standards. While San Diego police have yet to link Earnest with known white supremacy groups, the manifesto he posted contained many references to alt-right online culture. This detail is significant in the case against Earnest as Gore reported that Earnest has made references to the violent shooting that occurred at the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque earlier this year, the manifesto for which also contained similar references. Earnest is also a potential suspect in the fire set to a mosque in Escondido, CA.
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