Deadly shooting at California synagogue

By Harmeet Kaur, Nicole Chavez and Christina Kline, CNN

Updated 5:07 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019
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10:17 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

Authorities are investigating an open letter that may be connected to the suspect

From Artemis Moshtaghian

Authorities are aware of an open letter posted online by the 19-year-old suspect identified as John Earnest in the San Diego-area synagogue shooting, Sheriff Bill Gore said in a press conference.

Gore said they are “collecting digital evidence” and are in the process of reviewing the online content “to determine its validity and authenticity.”

CNN has read through an open letter posted to the anonymous message board 8chan before the shooting at Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway on Saturday morning. In the open letter, someone identifying as 19-year-old John Earnest references killing Jewish people without making actual reference to Poway or the synagogue involved in the shooting.

In the open letter, Earnest talks about planning the attack and references other attacks on houses of worship, including the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh as well the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. Earnest also talks about his disdain for Jews and claims responsibility for a mosque fire in Escondido a week and a half after the attacks in Christchurch.

According to a flyer released by Escondido Police Department, authorities are investigating an arson incident that took place at the Islamic Center of Escondido on March 24. San Diego Sheriff's Department is also investigating whether Earnest was involved in the arson attack. 

The open letter is structured in a similar fashion to the manifesto linked to Christchurch attack suspect Brenton Tarrant, replete with a question-and-answer section in which Earnest answers general questions about his character, political affiliation and motivation for carrying out the alleged shooting.

9:34 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

Mayor says attack could have been worse but worshippers were 'proactive'

From CNN's Sara Sidner

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said worshippers at the San Diego-area synagogue had learned safety protocols and learn how to respond during a shooting when police and local officials visited the synagogue last month.

I think this could’ve been far, far worse but they were being proactive, they were ready," Vaus said. "I think that saved a lot more bloodshed and loss of life."

Vaus said President Donald Trump called him to offer his condolences following the shooting. In addition, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto also reached out to express his sorrow and noted that it was only six months ago that his city suffered a similar attack, Vaus said.

8:58 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

Police looking into possible connection with arson attack at a nearby mosque

From CNN's Chuck Johnston and Nicole Chavez

Law enforcement officials are investigating whether the synagogue shooting in Poway and an arson attack at a mosque in Escondido, California, are connected.

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said authorities are trying to determine whether suspect John Earnest was linked to an incident at the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque, also known as the Islamic Center of Escondido, last month.

Someone set fire to the mosque while several people were inside on March 24. No injuries were reported but the exterior of the building was damaged, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

8:29 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

President Trump at rally: Anti-Semitism and hate "must be defeated"

President Trump addressed the shooting at the top of his rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, offering prayers for the victims and condemning anti-Semitism.

“Tonight, America’s heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting,” he said, adding that the entire nation “stands in solidarity with the Jewish community."

Trump said anti-Semitism and hate “must be defeated."

8:16 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

Suspect identified as 19-year-old John Earnest

The suspect has been identified as 19-year-old John Earnest, San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore told reporters at a press conference.

He has no prior contact with law enforcement, according to officials.

Gore said that authorities are aware of a "manifesto" that Earnest wrote, and are currently reviewing the document.

He also added that officials are looking at the possibility that Earnest was associated with a mosque arson in nearby Escondido from last month. 

8:00 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

Trump has spoken to California's governor and Poway's mayor

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump called California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus after today's shooting at a San Diego-area synagogue.

Sanders did not elaborate on the content of those conversations.

Earlier, Trump told reporters that the White House is doing “heavy research” and “will get to the bottom of it."

7:42 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

San Diego is beefing up security at places of worship

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore announced on Twitter that police would be providing extra patrols at places of worship through the weekend and encouraged people to report any suspicious activity.

"Update #6 @SDSheriff will be providing extra patrols at places of worship this weekend. We encourage congregations to call us with any security concerns. If you see something suspicious, say something. Call the @sdcrimestoppers anonymous line(888) 580-8477.

9-1-1 for emergencies," the sheriff wrote.

7:39 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

SOON: Officials give an update on the synagogue shooting

Officials are about to speak at a news conference about the shooting at a synagogue near San Diego.

Watch it here on CNNgo.

7:52 p.m. ET, April 27, 2019

An off-duty Border Patrol agent tried to shoot the suspect

As the suspect was fleeing the synagogue, an off-duty Border Patrol agent opened fire on him, San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said at a press conference. The agent ultimately did not hit the suspect, instead striking some of the cars nearby.

An officer who was en route to the scene overheard that the suspect had called into California Highway Patrol, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said later. The suspect said he was involved in the shooting and shared his location.

As the officer was exiting the freeway, he saw the suspect in his vehicle. The suspect was taken into custody shortly after.

President Trump thanked the border agent on Twitter.

"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!" Trump wrote.