A 19-year-old man was in custody after a shooting at a synagogue in the California city of Poway left at least one person dead and several others wounded, Mayor Steve Vaus said Saturday.
The shooting, which Vaus described as a possible hate crime, occurred at Congregation Chabad on the last day of Passover.
President Donald Trump, speaking outside the White House Saturday, told reporters, “At this moment it looks like a hate crime, but, my deepest sympathies to all of those affected and we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
The Palomar Medical Center Poway received four patients from the shooting, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
One of the patients, an older female, died there, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said. The three others — a girl and two men — were in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries, he said.
Vaus said he considered it a hate crime “because of statements that were made when the shooter entered.”
Gore later identified the suspect as John Earnest, of San Diego. Authorities are investigating to see whether Earnest is connected to arson at a mosque in nearby Escondido from last month, he said.
The mayor said the congregation was targeted by “someone with hate in their heart … towards our Jewish community and that just will not stand.” The congregation “took security very seriously,” he said.
“I also understand from folks on the scene that this shooter was engaged by people in the congregation and those brave people certainly prevented this from being a much worse tragedy,” Vaus told CNN.
Gore told reporters that the gunman was armed with an “AR-type assault weapon.”
Authorities said an off-duty Border Patrol agent fired at the shooter as he was fleeing the scene, but didn’t hit the suspect. Gore said it appears the agent, who the sheriff thinks is a security guard, hit the suspect’s car. It is unclear why the suspect fled but it is possible his gun might have malfunctioned, the sheriff added.
The suspect fled the scene and called 911 to say he was involved and give his location, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. A San Diego K-9 officer arrived and the shooter surrendered without incident, he said.
Gore said the suspect was being interviewed by detectives and the FBI.
The sheriff refused to comment on a motive.
“I want you to know this is not Poway,” Vaus told reporters.