Family of synagogue shooting suspect describe him as 'evil'

Two men hold candles during a vigil and prayer service in Poway, California, USA, on April 28, 2019.
Two men hold candles during a vigil and prayer service in Poway, California, USA, on April 28, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The parents of the teenager accused of shooting dead one worshipper and wounding three others at a California synagogue denounced his actions on Monday (April 29) as "evil" and said they had no clue what motivated him.

John Earnest, 19, allegedly burst into the Chabad of Poway synagogue, near San Diego, on Saturday and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 60-year-old Lori Kaye. The centre's rabbi was among the injured.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue," his parents said in a statement released by their attorney.

"But our sadness pales in comparison to the grief and anguish our son has caused for so many innocent people. He has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day.

"To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries."

Prior to the attack Earnest had published an anti-Semitic screed online in which he claimed responsibility for an arson attack against a mosque in the area weeks earlier.

The latest attack took place six months to the day after a white supremacist shot dead 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

 
 
 

"Our son's actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold," Earnest's parents said.

"Like our other five children, he was raised in a family, a faith and a community that all rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do.

They described their son's motivations as "a terrifying mystery" and said they were helping police uncover what had led to "this evil and despicable act".