'Our great shame': Poway shooting suspect's family releases public apology

"To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries," the family said.

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By Doha Madani

The parents of a man suspected of opening fire inside the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, during a Passover service, killing a woman, issued an apology for their son being part of the "history of evil" against Jewish people.

John T. Earnest, 19, of San Diego, was taken into custody Saturday after he allegedly opened fire with an AR-type assault weapon inside the Chabad of Poway on the last day of Passover. Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, a founding member of the synagogue, was killed in the attack and three others were injured.

Earnest's family apologized for their son's alleged actions in a statement released through their attorney Monday.

"To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries," the statement said.

John Earnest, the alleged shooter at the synagogue in Poway, California.via Facebook

Hours before the attack in Poway, a user identifying himself as John Earnest posted a white nationalist open letter to the far-right message board 8chan. Someone also utilized the username "JohnTEarnest" to post the letter on a document-hosting site.

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His family said it is a mystery where Earnest gained his alleged views and how he was "attracted to such darkness."

"Like our other five children, he was raised in a family, a faith, and a community that all rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do," the family said.

The statement also said that the family was cooperating with investigators.

Earnest was taken into custody Saturday after an off-duty Border Patrol agent in the area fired at him, hitting his car, authorities said.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said an officer was en route to the scene of the attack when he overheard on a scanner that a suspect had called the California Highway Patrol to report that he was involved in the shooting and gave his location.

The officer went to the location and “clearly saw the suspect in his vehicle, the suspect pulled over, jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody," Nilsei said.

Police saw a rifle sitting on the front passenger seat.

Earnest has been charged with one count of murder with a hate crime special circumstance and three counts of attempted murder with a hate crime special circumstance, the San Diego District Attorney's Office said Monday. He was also charged with the arson of a house of worship that occurred March 23, according to a criminal complaint.

If convicted, Earnest faces life without the possibility of parole. His arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, according to the district attorney.

Poway is the third fatal attack on a house of worship in the last six weeks — coming after the attacks in Christchurch in New Zealand and Colombo in Sri Lanka. It is the second fatal synagogue attack in the United States in the last year, after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in October last year.

CORRECTION: (April 30, 11:55 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of the San Diego police chief. He is David Nisleit, not Nislei.