Gunman told 911 'I just shot up a synagogue' after attack

SAN DIEGO (AP) — As the 19-year-old college student sped away in his 2012 Honda Civic, he dialed 911 and said: "I just shot up a synagogue."

He told the dispatcher that he thought he had killed some people and that he did it "because Jewish people are destroying the white race."

The chilling account in a federal affidavit unsealed Thursday was the most detailed yet of a gunman's attack on a Southern California synagogue that killed a woman and wounded three others during Passover service last month in the San Diego suburb of Poway.

It describes a deeply disturbed man filled with hatred who claimed to be inspired by the attacks on the mosques in New Zealand and the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue last fall.

The Department of Justice filed 109 hate crime and other charges against the suspect, John T. Earnest, who could face the death penalty. The federal charges include murder for the killing of 60-year-old Lori Kaye, who was hit twice as she prayed in the foyer of the synagogue. It also includes charges for the attempted murder of 53 others.

In a court appearance last month, Earnest pleaded not guilty to state charges of murder and attempted murder and in a separate case to an arson charge tied to a mosque fire.

During the 911 call, Earnest said he killed because he was "trying to defend my nation from the Jewish people ... They're destroying our people," according to the affidavit.

He then told the dispatcher where he was at, that he would surrender to authorities and leave his semi-automatic rifle in the car. He also said he was wearing a chest rig with additional ammunition, which the dispatcher asked him to remove.

Shortly after that, police arrested Earnest.

Related: San Diego synagogue shooting

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Synagogue members console one another outside of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Poway, Calif. Several people were injured in a shooting at the synagogue. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
An exterior view of the Altman Family Chabad Community Center at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Poway, Calif. Several people were injured in a shooting at the synagogue. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, center, arrives with other law enforcement officials outside of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Poway, Calif. Several people were injured in a shooting at the synagogue. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Flowers and signs sit at a memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
San Diego county sheriff's deputies stand in front of the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy) (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein hold up his right hand as he speaks during a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. Goldstein lost one finger on hls hand during the attack. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Members of the St. John of Damascus orthodox church bring flowers to a memorial at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks at a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, right, is hugged as he leaves a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Flowers and signs sit at a memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
San Diego county sheriff deputies stand in front of the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Flowers and signs sit at a memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
People gathering on a street corner hold signs in support of the victims of Saturday's shooting at Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
People gathering on a street corner hold signs in support of the victims of Saturday's shooting at Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks at a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
A couple holds candles during a vigil held for victims of the Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, right, is hugged as he leaves a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Kyle Fox, 4, and his father Brady Fox hold a sign at a vigil held to support the victims of Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
A couple embrace near a growing memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, Calif., on Monday,, April 29, 2019. A 19-year-old gunman opened fire on Saturday as about 100 people were worshipping exactly six months after a mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing one and injuring more. (AP Photo/Greg Bull)
Community members and congregants attend a candlelight vigil for the victim of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue shooting at Valle Verde Park on April 28, 2019 in Poway, California. - A rabbi who carried on preaching despite being wounded in the latest deadly shooting at a US synagogue said on April 28 that Jews would not be intimidated by the "senseless hate" of anti-semitism. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP) (Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Community members and congregants attend a candlelight vigil for the victim of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue shooting at Valle Verde Park on April 28, 2019 in Poway, California. - A rabbi who carried on preaching despite being wounded in the latest deadly shooting at a US synagogue said on April 28 that Jews would not be intimidated by the "senseless hate" of anti-semitism. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP) (Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in Poway, California on April 28, 2019, a day after a deadly shooting there. - A rabbi who carried on preaching despite being wounded in the latest deadly shooting at a US synagogue said on April 28 that Jews would not be intimidated by the "senseless hate" of anti-semitism. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP) (Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman and a young girl, Jewish congregants of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, weep during a press conference outside of the Synagogue on April 28, 2019 in Poway, California. - A rabbi who carried on preaching despite being wounded in the latest deadly shooting at a US synagogue said on April 28 that Jews would not be intimidated by the "senseless hate" of anti-semitism. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP) (Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Executive Director Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was shot in the hands, speaks to members of the media duringa press conference outside of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue on April 28, 2019 in Poway, California. - A rabbi who carried on preaching despite being wounded in the latest deadly shooting at a US synagogue said on April 28 that Jews would not be intimidated by the "senseless hate" of anti-semitism. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP) (Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Mourners participate in a candle light vigil for the victims of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue shooting at the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church on April 27, 2019 in Poway, California. - A teenage gunman who wrote a hate-filled manifesto opened fire at a synagogue in California on April 27, killing one person and injuring three others including the rabbi as worshippers marked the final day of Passover, authorities said. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP) (Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
POWAY, CA - APRIL 27: People attend a prayer and candlelight vigil at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church on April 27, 2019 in Poway, California. A gunman opened fire at the Congregation Chabad synagogue on the last day of Passover leaving one person dead and three others injured. The suspect is in custody. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
POWAY, CA - APRIL 27: People attend a prayer and candlelight vigil at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church on April 27, 2019 in Poway, California. A gunman opened fire at the Congregation Chabad synagogue on the last day of Passover leaving one person dead and three others injured. The suspect is in custody. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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Police would later learn it was not the first attack on a house of worship by the suspect, according to the affidavit.

The nursing student and gifted pianist had tried weeks earlier to burn down a nearby mosque in Escondido, where seven people on a spiritual retreat were sleeping, according to the affidavit. They awoke to flames licking at the door and managed to extinguish the fire, which charred a wall.

Outside the mosque, the suspect had scrawled the name of the man accused of carrying out shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people.

In his online postings, Earnest said he was inspired by those attacks and the one last fall on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and boasted about how "easy" it is to burn down or shoot up a mosque, synagogue, immigration center, or "traitorous" politicians, according to court documents.

A copy of the web posting of the New Zealand suspect Brenton Tarrant was found on his laptop, authorities say.

A month after his failed attempt to burn down the mosque, authorities say, Earnest bought an AR-15 rifle from a licensed dealer in San Diego.

The next day, a Saturday, marked the last day of Passover, a major Jewish holiday.

Just as the service was getting started, Earnest pulled up to the synagogue in his Honda Civic and walked in firing his AR-15, which was fully loaded with a 10-round magazine.

Kaye fell to the ground. Then Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was leading the service, was shot as he rushed to get the children out, including his own grandchildren.

Also hit by shrapnel were an 8-year-old girl and her uncle.

The shooter emptied his magazine and stopped as he struggled to reload it, according to the affidavit. That's when several members of the congregation, including an off-duty Border Patrol agent, chased Earnest from the synagogue.

His family has said they will not pay for his defense and that he represents none of the values they taught him and are stunned at his embrace of white supremacy.

Authorities said Earnest frequented dark corners of the web that often post extremist, racist and violent views. In his online postings, he said, "As an individual, I can only kill so many Jews."

The Chabad of Poway applauded the federal charges Thursday but said more must be done to prevent people from being led astray by such hatred.

"We are grateful to our country's dedicated law enforcement authorities for taking the appropriate measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its citizens," the synagogue said in a statement. "As a society we must surely focus on the preventive measure of instilling in our youth a sense of personal accountability to a Higher Being, in whose image every human being was created."

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