POWAY -- A congregation celebrating the last day of Passover was thrown into chaos Saturday after a gunman opened fire in a temple near San Diego, killing one person and injuring three others, including a rabbi addressing the worshippers, authorities said.
A 19-year-old man has been detained by authorities. He was identified as John Earnest of San Diego.
San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said Earnest was also being investigated in connection with the arson at a mosque in nearby Escondido last month.
The shooting unfolded in the city of Poway, about 25 miles northeast of San Diego, at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, which was scheduled to hold a Passover holiday celebration at 11 a.m. PDT. A suspect walked into the synagogue with an AR-style assault weapon and started shooting at worshippers shortly before 11:30 a.m.
"This is not the Poway I know," Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said at a news conference. "Poway will stay strong and we will always be a community that cares for one another."
A woman was killed in the attack, Gore said, adding that the injured included two men and a juvenile female, who were being treated at a local hospital.
The gunman is being questioned by the FBI and homicide authorities. Gore said authorities were poring over his social media accounts and what Gore described as a "manifesto" posted online around the time of the attack. Gore said officials were working to verify the posting's authenticity and did not offer details on any motive. The supposed letter details the shooter's hateful motivations and his reasons for targeting members of the Jewish faith.
'We will not be broken'
Longtime Congregant Fred Nasseri was walking by the synagogue Saturday evening where a memorial with dozens of bouquets, cards and candles and a "Prayers for Poway" sign was growing.
Nasseri was not at Saturday's service, but said he knew the woman who was killed and described her as "very giving, kind. She was an angel... I’ve known her for 25 years and I can say nothing but good things about her... the community lost a great soul.”
He said she was married and had a daughter.
To all the Jewish families and those who don’t like Jews he said, “we will not be broken. This is not going to break us.”
As a sign of support, about 1000 worshippers of many faiths hastily gathered at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church Saturday evening after a call went out just hours earlier on social media.
“You have to come together,” Jill Weller, 48 of Poway, said. “You have one evil person… but you have to show your support for community.”
Solomon Yonus, 33, of Escondido, said the service was attended by other Muslims like himself.
Yonus, a tech industry worker who came to the US as a child from Afghanistan, said it’s “hugely important in this time to show support, to show love.”
Earlier in the day Vaus, the mayor of Poway, told reporters there was no doubt over the motivations of the suspect. "It was a hate crime, and that will not stand," he told MSNBC.
Vaus later told CNN that the gunman made hateful statements when he entered the synagogue and the attack could have been worse if it wasn't for worshippers who tried to stop the gunman.
"This shooter was engaged by people in the congregation, and those brave people certainly prevented this from being a much worse tragedy," Vaus said.
Update #1: A man has been detained for questioning in connection with a shooting incident at the Chabad of Poway synagogue. @SDSOPoway Deputies were called to Chabad Way just before 11:30 a.m. There are injuries. This is a developing situation.— Poway Station (@SDSOPoway) April 27, 2019
Detaining the suspect
An off-duty Border Patrol officer was working as a security guard at inside the temple when the attack unfolded. He fired on the gunman as the suspect fled the area, hitting the gunman's car, authorities told reporters during an afternoon news conference.
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said that as one of his officers was on the way to the shooting, he overheard on the scanner that the suspect had called into police, saying "he was just involved in this shooting" and giving his location along Interstate 15. The officer quickly spotted the suspect, who pulled over and jumped out of his vehicle with his hands up, surrendering to authorities.
The gunman's rifle was found in the front passenger seat, Nisleit said.
Sgt. Aaron Meleen of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said those hurt in the attack have "varying states of injuries," adding that it was an "extremely chaotic scene, with people running everywhere."
The rabbi was shot in the hand, Vaus said.
After the shooting, the rabbi continued to speak, Minoo Anvari, a witness, told a local NBC TV affiliate. She said one of her friends, a woman, was shot.
The shooting caused chaos and confusion for families, Anvari said, because it is the Sabbath and many members could not use their cellphones for religious reasons.
President Donald Trump called the attack a "hate crime" before he departed the White House for a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Saturday night. He also praised the response by law enforcement and offered his condolences to those affected in the attack.
Thoughts and prayers to all of those affected by the shooting at the Synagogue in Poway, California. God bless you all. Suspect apprehended. Law enforcement did outstanding job. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2019
"My deepest sympathies go to the people that were affected – the families, the loved ones – by the, obviously – looks right now based on my last conversations – looks like a hate crime," Trump said. "Hard to believe, hard to believe."
California's Gov. Gavin Newsom said those in his state, like other parts of the world, should not have to fear due to their religion.
"Charleston, Pittsburgh, Quebec, New Zealand – now our own Poway, California. No one should ever fear going to their place of worship," he said on Twitter. "Hate continues to fuel horrific and cowardly acts of violence across our state, country, and world. It must be called out. CA stands with Poway."
On the synagogue's Facebook page, worshipers had been invited to "experience the Priestly blessing during the prayer invocation." It was to be followed by a final Passover meal at 7 p.m.
The shooting comes one month after a shooting at a mosque in New Zealand that killed 50 and less than one week after a series of explosions in Sri Lanka targeted churches and hotels, killing 253 on Easter Sunday.
Exactly six months before this Passover shooting, an October attack at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue killed 11.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'People running everywhere': 1 dead, 3 wounded in Passover shooting at synagogue near San Diego