Police confirm they are holding and questioning a suspect, identified only as a white 19-year-old male from nearby San Diego, CA – in a fatal shooting incident that occurred earlier today at the Chabad of Poway on the final day of Passover.
Authorities responded to reports of a “man with a gun” on the grounds at 11:23 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. CDT). Sheriff Bill Gore, a former FBI agent, confirmed that the suspect’s vehicle was hit by an off-duty Border Patrol officer as he fled the scene. He was arrested nearby by Sheriff’s deputies with an AR-type assault rifle after phoning authorities to turn himself in. He allegedly gave no resistance as he surrendered.
Officials confirm four people were transported by ambulance to Palomar Hospital, but that an adult female victim died as a result of her injuries.
Mayor Steve Vaus announced earlier that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime. Because of its label as a hate crime, the FBI has been brought into the investigation.
The medical status of the three others are all listed as stable and non-life threatening. They reportedly include Chabad Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was conducting Shabbat and Yizkor services, a male worshiper and a female youth member.
Despite the rabbi’s severe injuries to his hand – he may have lost fingers during the attack – he reportedly urged calm and assured worshipers that the threat is real and to stand up to enemies of the Jewish people before leaving to be treated.
No other reports from the scene regarding victims have been made public other than to say that the scene has been secured and that it is being investigated at this time.
Police investigators have also refused to identify the subject at this time. According to reports from the sheriff and the mayor, the suspect readily indicated to police he was responsible for the shooting and that his statements gave indication that the incident should be investigated as a hate crime.
Witnesses questioned by news media claim to have heard an initial burst of six or seven gunshots followed by screaming and then another burst of semi-automatic or automatic gunfire.
The subject was reportedly captured several blocks away from the scene.
If the reports are confirmed, this would be the most serious attack on a house of worship since the deadly attack at the Tree of Life/Simcha L’Or Synagogue in Pittsburgh last October exactly six months ago. That attack by a lone gunman killed 11 people and injured seven others.
Following this latest incident, San Diego Police Department announced increased security and details at other area houses of worship.