Parents are baffled athlete son accused in synagogue attack

Hannah Kaye, the daughter of the shooting victim, Lori Kaye, center, holds the hand of her father, Howard Kaye, during the funeral, Monday, April 29, 2019, in San Diego. Lori Kaye was killed when a man opened fire a few days earlier in a synagogue in the neighborhood of San Diego, as believers, celebrated on the last day of an important Jewish holiday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

POWAY, Calif. – The man accused of opening fire in a Southern California synagogue was an accomplished student, entrepreneur, and musician whose embrace of white supremacy and anti-Semitism is dumbfounded his family and others, who thought they knew him well.

John T. Ernst, 19, made the dean’s list both semesters last year as a nursing student at California State University in San Marcos. In high school, he had stellar grades, she swam on the varsity team and enjoyed the applause of classmates for his piano solos on his talent shows.

Ernst apparently was radicalized sometime in the last two years and is charged with murder and attempted murder on Saturday in the attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue, which killed one woman and three people injured, including the rabbi.

He is also accused of arson in connection with an attack last month on a mosque in the near Escondido.

Owen Cruise, 20, saw Severity every day during the last year of the Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego when the two were in mathematics and physics together. They were also both in the school amateur radio club.

Earnie’s piano performances attracted the audience to their feet. He did a rendition of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and played Chopin and Beethoven.

“Crowds would cheer his name,” Cruise said Monday. “Everyone loved him.”

Seriously counted Jews and black people among his friends. His father, John A. Ernst, is a popular physics teacher at Mt. Carmel, where he has worked for 31 years.

“He was very close to his father,” Cruise said. “He was always in his class, came to see him at lunch. He always seemed like a nice guy … He didn’t seem like the type of person who would go off the deep end.”

Ernst’s father offered to help students with exams and homework, said Cruise, who praised his former teacher for having a big impact on his life. On the morning of the shooting, the elder and Sincere was the host of a study-hour for an Advanced Placement exam and brought cookies, Cruise said.

Cruise, now a sophomore at the University of California, San Diego, said the suspect lived at home and saw his parents every day.

“The way in which John T. acted is not representative of the way he was excited,” Cruise said. “They are an excellent family. Some of the finest people I have ever met.”

The suspect of the parents said that their son and five brothers and sisters were brought up in a family that “rejected hatred and learned that love must be the motive for everything we do.”

“To our great shame, he is now part of the history of the evil that is perpetrated on the Jewish people for centuries,” the parents said Monday in their first public comments. “Our son’s actions were informed by people we don’t know, and ideas which we do not possess.”

The parents, who cooperate with researchers, do not plan to plan to provide legal representation for their son, whose first appearance was scheduled for Tuesday. Family lawyer Earll Pott said a public defender will probably be appointed.

Serious cracks in the synagogue on the last day of the Passover, an important Jewish holiday that celebrates freedom, and opened fire with an assault-style rifle at the crowd of about 100.

He fled when the gun jammed, according to authorities and witnesses, the avoidance of an Army soldier and an off-duty Border Patrol agent who pursued him. He called 911 to report the shooting and gave a short time later.

Lori Kaye , one of the founders of the congregation, was killed. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was a shot in the hands, while Noya Dahan, 8, and her uncle Almog Peretz suffered wounds from shrapnel.

Kaye, 60, was remembered for her kindness Monday at a memorial service at the packed synagogue in Poway, a well-to-do suburb north of San Diego.

An online in writing by a person to identify himself as John, Seriously, and published, shortly before the attack spewed hatred of Jews and praised the perpetrators of the attacks on mosques in New Zealand killed 50 people in the last month and in Pittsburgh, and the Tree of Life synagogue, killed on 11 Oct. 27.

Ernst visited 8chan, a dark corner of the web where these are not used by the regular social media sites often post extremist, racist and violent views.

“I’ve been here lurking for a year and a half, but what I’ve learned here is priceless. It’s been an honor,” he wrote.

Seriously, who apparently intended to use the livestream of the attack, a list of recommended songs for people to listen to while watching, including “Demolition John B” by The Beach Boys and the Pokemon theme song. He said that he was planning the attack for four weeks.

“If you told me even 6 months ago that I would do this I would be surprised,” Ernst wrote.

The FBI said it received tips about a social media post threatening violence against the Jews, about five minutes before 11:30 hours the attack.

The tips to a FBI website, hotline and a link to the anonymous post, but don’t have specific information about the author or the location of the threat. The agency said that the worker tried to determine who wrote it, but the shooting occurred before they could determine his identity.

A tipster told The Associated Press that he is the FBI tip line at 11:15 pm, because the post is linked to an online writing that said the author was responsible for the arson mosque in Escondido.

The tipster, who refused to accept his name for the sake of safety, said that the conversation with the FBI lasted for four or five minutes. He described the FBI as a fast and professional and said that he did not know what the agency would have done.


Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Washington, R. J. Rico, Atlanta, and Amy Taxin in Poway, contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show that the rabbi’s first name is spelled Yisroel, not Yishoel.(backslash)

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