As investigators search for answers in the deadly shooting at a California synagogue, police are looking into the suspect’s possible link to a fire at a nearby mosque and taking extra steps to keep places of worship safe.
One person was killed and at least three others wounded in a shooting Saturday at Congregation Chabad in Poway, about 22 miles north of San Diego, according to authorities.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department said it assigned deputies to religious centres throughout the weekend. While security has been heightened, authorities said it is not indicative of a greater threat.
“We encourage our communities to continue with scheduled events and other activities as normal,” the department said in a statement. “The suspect in the Poway incident today has been captured and we believe he acted alone.”
The suspect in custody has been identified as John Earnest, a 19-year-old student at California State University San Marcos.
He was booked into San Diego Central Jail early Sunday on one count of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree attempted murder, according to the San Diego Sheriff’s Inmate Website.
Authorities are investigating whether he is connected to arson at a mosque in nearby Escondido last month, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department is executing search warrants at the home and car of the suspect as well as at the synagogue, according to a release from the agency.
Gore told reporters that the gunman was armed with an “AR-type assault weapon.” A witness told CNN affiliate KGTV there were six or seven shots followed by screams and then another volley of shots. The witness said a wounded rabbi tried to calm the gunman and members of the congregation.
Authorities said an off-duty Border Patrol agent, who Gore thinks is a security guard, fired at the shooter as he was fleeing the scene. He didn’t hit the suspect, but Gore said it appears he 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.