San Diego’s Jewish community was attacked in Poway, California late Saturday morning, April 27th, 2019. On the last day of a Jewish holiday of Passover, a 19-year-old gunman opened fire using an AR-15 assault weapon at the Chabad of Poway.
The attack killed one woman, wounded a rabbi among others (including children). Sixty-year-old Lori Kaye threw herself in front of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, taking the bullet meant for him. Lori left behind a husband and 22-year-old daughter. Eight-year-old Noya Dahan and her uncle Almog Peretz were also attacked and are in stable condition. Noya’s family moved to San Diego from the southern Israeli town of Sderot so they could get away from rocket attacks and threats of terrorism. Peretz was visiting for the holiday.
The Poway synagogue shooting was carried out by John Earnest, who previously published an online manifesto that included a nod to the New Zealand mosque attack earlier this year and the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue attack the year prior. Earnest’s manifesto also took responsibility for last month’s arson attack at a mosque in neighboring Escondido. Prior to having his account deactivated, Earnest also disclosed on Reddit that he planned to livestream the shooting.
Are Hate Crimes Part of a Mental Health Problem?
Earlier in the week, 34-year-old Isaiah Joel Peoples plowed through a crowd of people with his car as they moved through a crosswalk. He specifically targeted victims because he thought they were Muslim. An Iraq war veteran with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, Peoples’ faces eight counts of attempted murder. One of the victims of the attack is a 13-year-old who is now suffering from a coma with severe brain trauma.
In the same week, a smaller incident occurred in Orange County, California, where a mentally unstable Muslim man attempted to attack an imam in an initiated confrontation. The Anaheim police department were quickly informed and ready before the attacker arrived at a second destination. The individual was smiling when handcuffed and the local Muslim community is deeply grateful for the quick action of authorities.
Escalating attacks of hate is a warning that we have a problem in even the most idyllic of communities from New Zealand to sunny California. No community is insulated against hate, but we can work together in the setting of preventing violent extremism (PVE) programs to ally and take back our communities. PVE lets us be on the pulse of what to look out for in displaced and mentally unstable individuals, so that we can act and get these people help before they kill or otherwise irreversibly harm others.