College classmates raised concerns about Poway synagogue shooter before 2019 attack

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Shortly before a San Diego County nursing student opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, a hate crime that killed a congregation and injured three others, she advocated an ideology that worried her classmates. .

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John T. Ernest shared white supremacist material with at least two of his Cal State San Marcos classmates, according to a newly obtained court filing. He studied Hitler. He had a copy of the manifesto of the man who shot down two mosques in New Zealand in March 2019 – and he liked it.

Two fellow nursing students took their concerns about Ernest to a professor, who reported it to the university. An investigation followed, and the university police was part of the team.


But, according to the court filing, because Ernest had not made any threats or displayed any acts of violence, he was not arrested or expelled from school.


The revelation that the students had reported concerns about Ernest was contained in a probation report filed in San Diego Superior Court when Ernest was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder, attempted murder, and arson. Was.

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This is the first confirmation that someone not only flagged his behavior, but it also triggered an investigation into the shooting in Chabad, Poway in the weeks prior to April 27, 2019. Following his arrest, the San Diego Union-Tribune followed suggestions that there might be concerns on campus about Ernest, but journalists were unable to confirm the information at the time.

When asked about the recent investigation, university spokeswoman Margaret Chantung cited federal student privacy regulations and said she was “not speaking specifically about this matter or any behavioral concerns relating to Mr. which may have been shared with CSUSM.”

She said that, in general, “regarding student behavior” is reported to the dean of the student office, who oversees it. A campus team with specialized expertise To assess and respond. That team includes members of the University Police Department.

“Team reviews for indicators/evidence that someone is planning or preparing to act improperly; or has the potential to cause injury to themselves or others,” Chantung said in an email.

The team then “makes recommendations for behavioral intervention, if this is warranted,” she said.

It is unclear what the team may have seen or done in relation to Ernest. The case is only briefly referred to in the court document.

After the shooting, the university fully followed the FBI’s investigation, Chantung said.

“The university was probably in a “very difficult position,” said Henry Reichman, who chaired the American Esson’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure for University Professors for nine years.

“A public university can’t say anymore, ‘Okay because you’re saying these offensive thoughts, you’re mentally ill and we don’t want you here,’ now the police don’t have the right to take anyone because they saying things and just put them in jail,” said Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State’s East Bay.

It is unclear when students reported their concerns about Earnest, including their praise for the manifesto of the man who killed 51 worshipers at two mosques in New Zealand on March 15, 2019.

On March 24, 2019, Ernest opened fire at the Dar-ul-Arkam Mosque in Escondido and made spray-painted references to the New Zealand shooter. After that he ran away.

Ernest’s identity as the arsonist was a mystery for a month until he confessed – an admission in an open online letter he had posted moments before the synagogue attack.

An undated photo of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, taken during a trip to Israel. He died in Chabad, Poway in the shooting of 2019.
(courtesy photo)

There were 54 people inside Chabad of Poway on the last day of Passover in 2019, when Ernest went inside and opened fire. Chabad Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, of Powe Congregation was killed. Founder Rabbi Isroel Goldstein, then 8-year-old Noya Dahan, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, then 34, were injured.

In June, Ernest pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder, and hate crimes in San Diego Superior Court. He was later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Before sentencing, prosecutors filed a brief that pointed to statements made in the lead-up to the shooting, including a 2019 holiday party where he allegedly made racist remarks to classmates, people of different races. Ranked.

And in late 2018 – four months before the attack – he sent videos with anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views to at least two of his family members and a university classmate, according to a court document.

Prosecutors allege in the motion that Ernest’s radicalization began about 18 months before the shooting, with YouTube videos and visits to political boards on sites such as 4chan and 8chan. It matches what Ernest wrote in the open letter.

Ernest was transferred to a state prison in the Central Valley on November 3, but was soon returned to San Diego, sentenced in a parallel federal case on December 28 to be held in federal prison.

Through a friend, Ernest recently sent a written statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune in which he said he intended to publicly repent for the attack, citing his religious imperative to do so. The statement, and two follow-up statements, contain several white supremacist and anti-Semitic references.

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