Accused Poway synagogue gunman pleads not guilty to deadly shooting

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Defendant John Earnest during a preliminary hearing in Superior Court in San Diego, September 19, 2019. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)

John Earnest faces murder and hate crime charges for attack that killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye and injured three; also denies arson at mosque month before gun assault

The accused gunman in the deadly shooting at a San Diego-area synagogue pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder.

In addition to entering pleas on Thursday in a San Diego court for firing an assault rifle inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue, John Earnest, 20, also pleaded not guilty to arson charges for a fire a month earlier at a nearby mosque, the ABC affiliate in San Diego, 10 News, reported.

One woman, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed and three people were wounded, including an 8-year-old girl and the synagogue’s rabbi, who lost a finger, in the April 27 shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue.

The murder charge has been classified as a hate crime, making Earnest eligible for the death penalty, though prosecutors from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office have not said whether they will seek that punishment.

Earnest is being held without bail. He is due back in court on December 5, when a trial date will be set.

A San Diego county sheriff’s deputy stands in front of the Poway Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California, April 28, 2019, after a shooting. (AP /Denis Poroy)

Earnest also faces more than 100 hate crime-related counts filed by the US Attorney’s Office, and could also face the death penalty in the federal case, the Times of San Diego reported.

Earnest told a 911 operator in the moments after the attack that he did it to save white people from Jews.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye. (Facebook)

About an hour before the synagogue attack, someone identifying himself as John Earnest posted a link on 8chan, an anonymous message board that often features hate speech and conspiracy theories, to an open letter that condemned and threatened Jews.

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