Gunman John Earnest pleads not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder after attacking congregants at Chabad of Poway on April 27.
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — 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.
Earnest also faces more than 100 hate crime-related counts filed by the U.S. 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.
About an hour before the synagogue attack, someone identifying himself as John Earnest posted a link to an open letter on 8chan, an anonymous message board that often features hate speech and conspiracy theories, that condemned and threatened Jews.