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State Seeking Death Penalty Against Alleged Poway Synagogue Shooter

The alleged Poway synagogue shooter faces the death penalty in state court. Prosecutors in San Diego County, California announced this Thursday, according to City News Service.

John T. Earnest, 19, faces an ongoing case for the murder of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, as well as charges including attempted murder.

He also faces a 109-count federal prosecution for the same alleged behavior, with charges of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs using a dangerous weapon, violating the Mathew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and damage to religious property by use of fire in relation to the attempted arson of the mosque.

Earnest arrived at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue on April 27, 2019 in his sedan, federal authorities said. He was armed with an AR 15-style semi-automatic rifle, and wearing an ammunition chest rig when he approached the open door and opened fire, officials said. Gilbert-Kaye was killed and four others, including a juvenile, were injured but survived, said investigators. The defendant fled the scene as several congregants chased him down, authorities said. The suspect was arrested after he called 911, said federal authorities.

Investigators said they found a virulent anti-Semitic screed on the defendant’s laptop. This manifesto had been posted online. Earnest was the author, they said. In it, he allegedly admitted to the March 2019 arson of an Escondido mosque.

The defendant has pleaded not guilty to both state and federal charges.

In practice, the push for the death penalty is a formality. There’s a moratorium on the death penalty in California, but the state hadn’t been executing people for some years before it anyway.

[Screengrab via CBS]

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