SAN DIEGO — The family of John T. Earnest who is suspected of opening fire on a Poway, Calif., synagogue, killing one woman and injuring three others, said they were mystified by their son’s apparently extremist beliefs, adding his actions “were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold,” according to a statement sent to the San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday.
The 19-year-old was arrested soon after the shooting at Chabad of Poway on Saturday.
He is the apparent author of a long, anti-Semitic “open letter” detailing his “disgust” for Jews and his admiration for the perpetrators of other mass shootings, including the gunman who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue six months ago to the day.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue. 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.
“Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold. 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. How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us, though we are confident that law enforcement will uncover many details of the path that he took to this evil and despicable act. To that end, our family is cooperating with investigators. We ask only that the media and the public respect our privacy and allow the criminal justice system to work.
“Our heavy hearts will forever go out to the victims and survivors. Our thanks go to the first responders who prevented even greater loss of life and the well-wishers who have supported us. And we pray for peace.”
The family’s lawyer, Earll M. Pott, said the family does not anticipate making any more public statements until their son’s criminal case is resolved.