One woman is dead and three other people injured following a shooting Saturday at the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego after a man opened fire during a celebration held on the last day of Passover.
Authorities are questioning a man suspected of entering the temple at about 11:23 a.m. Saturday morning and shooting worshipers with an “AR-type assault weapon,” San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said during an early afternoon press conference.
No explosives were found inside the synagogue, the sheriff said.
Four people were sent to Palomar Medical Center as a result of the shooting, including three people recovering in stable condition and a woman who succumbed to her injuries, Sheriff Gore said.
The victims were Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, who died, and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, Noya Dahan, 8, and her uncle Almog Peretz, 34, who were injured, authorities said.
Multiple reports from her friends say Gilbert-Kaye was protecting the rabbi’s son who is also a rabbi — Rabbi Mendel Goldstein — when she was fatally shot.
Audrey Jacobs, a friend of the slain woman, said on Facebook that Gilbert-Kaye was “taking bullets” for the rabbi to save his life, The Associated Press reported.
Derryl Acosta, a spokesman for the hospital, confirmed that four patients were admitted around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, AP reported.
The rabbi was shot in the hand and was “in surgery after suffering defensive wounds to his index fingers,” Sheriff Gore tweeted Saturday night.
“He apparently continued with his sermon after being wounded, telling people to stay strong,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The other two victims were “hit by shrapnel from bullets,” but “They are doing well,” the tweet said. The 8-year-old was transferred to Rady’s Children Hospital.
As the shooter fled, an off-duty Border Patrol agent inside the synagogue opened fire, missing him but striking his getaway vehicle in the city of Poway, just over 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of San Diego, Sheriff Gore said.
The gunman called 911 shortly afterward to report the shooting, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. When an officer reached the man on a roadway, “the suspect pulled over, jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody,” Chief Nisleit said.
The suspect, John Earnest, a 19-year-old white male from San Diego, was taken into custody moments later without further incident and is being questioned by homicide detectives and the FBI, the sheriff confirmed at a later press conference.
“We are aware of his manifesto” online, the sheriff said of the suspect, and police are preparing search warrants for his home, his car and the synagogue.
“We’re looking into digital evidence and checking the authenticity of an online manifesto,” Sheriff Gore tweeted.
Law enforcement officers are also looking to see if there is a connection between the suspect and an arson at a mosque in Escondido, California, last month.
The suspect had “no record of police contact prior to today,” Sheriff Gore said.
“At this moment it looks like a hate crime,” President Trump told reporters outside the White House later Saturday. “My deepest sympathies to the people that were affected.”
The president later tweeted: “Sincerest THANK YOU to our great Border Patrol Agent who stopped the shooter at the Synagogue in Poway, California. He may have been off duty but his talents for Law Enforcement weren’t!”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom also tweeted: “Charleston, Pittsburgh, Quebec, New Zealand — now our own Poway, California. No one should ever fear going to their place of worship. Hate continues to fuel horrific and cowardly acts of violence across our state, country, and world. It must be called out. CA stands with Poway.”
The synagogue was hosting a celebration that was scheduled to start at 11 a.m. for the last day of Passover.
“This was definitely someone with hate in their heart — hate toward our Jewish community — and that just will not stand,” Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said on CNN.
Although the mayor suggested it was a hate crime, the sheriff would not officially confirm or deny that a hate crime occurred.
A person identifying themselves as John Earnest posted an anti-Jewish screed online about an hour before the attack, the AP reported. The poster described himself as a nursing school student and praised the suspects accused of carrying out deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand last month and at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27.
The Chabad of Poway shooting occurred exactly six months since the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people.
California State University, San Marcos, confirmed Mr. Earnest was a student on the dean’s list and said the school was “dismayed and disheartened” that he was suspected in “this despicable act,” the AP said.
The San Diego Police Department will be providing extra patrols at local houses of worship out of an “abundance of caution,” Chief Nisleit said, noting there was no other threat after the suspect’s arrest.
The acting head of the FBI’s San Diego office said federal investigators are working closely on the case with local and state authorities in addition to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this article. This article was also based in part on wire service reports.