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Feds Prosecutors Won't Seek Death Penalty Against Chabad Of Poway Shooter

Two people hug as another talks to a San Diego County Sheriff's deputy outside of the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday.
Denis Poroy / AP
Two people hug as another talks to a San Diego County Sheriff's deputy outside of the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday.

UPDATE: 12:54 p.m., Aug. 30, 2021

Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against a young man who carried out a hate-motivated shooting at the Chabad of Poway that killed one woman and injured three other people, according to documents filed Monday in San Diego federal court.

John Timothy Earnest, 22, who pleaded guilty last month to murder and other state charges in connection with the April 27, 2019, shooting, could have faced capital punishment in parallel state and federal prosecutions.

State prosecutors opted against capital punishment in light of his pleas, though Earnest faced the possibility of the death penalty in the federal case prior to Monday's filing.

Earnest is slated to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 137 years to life next month in the state's case.

A motions hearing remains set for Sept. 8 in his federal case, though Earnest's attorneys previously indicated that he signed off on a conditional plea agreement. The terms of that offer have not been disclosed, nor whether the U.S. Attorney General's Office is inclined to accept it.

The former Rancho Penasquitos resident and Cal State San Marcos nursing student admitted to carrying out the shooting on the last day of Passover, fatally wounding 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who was shot twice in the synagogue's foyer. Kaye, a longtime member of Chabad of Poway, was at the temple with her husband and daughter to honor her mother, who had recently died.

The congregation's rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, lost a finger in the shooting. Two other people — Almog Peretz and his then-8-year-old niece, Noya Dahan — were also injured.

Prosecutors say 54 people were inside the synagogue when Earnest opened fire.

Surveillance footage from the date of the crime appears to show the shooter's rifle jam or malfunction after he entered the synagogue and began firing. He then fled the scene after being chased out by congregants, drove a short distance away, called police and directed them to his location, where he was arrested.

As part of his plea, Earnest admitted that he specifically targeted the victims because they were Jewish.

He also pleaded guilty to an arson charge for setting fire to the Dar- ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido on March 24, 2019.

The shooting also triggered a series of lawsuits from the victims of the shooting against Earnest, the Chabad itself, the gun store that sold Earnest the weapon and gun manufacturers.