Poway, CA – A Southern California synagogue where a gunman killed a woman and wounded three other people dedicated a new Torah scroll — the holiest object in Judaism — to the slain woman on Wednesday.
The handwritten Biblical scroll had the final letters inked by a scribe during a ceremony at Chabad of Poway. It was carried outside under a canopy into the street to clapping and singing.
The Torah was dedicated to Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, who was killed on April 27 when a gunman walked into the synagogue on the last day of Passover and opened fire on congregants with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Authorities said the man emptied the 10 rounds from the gun and was carrying 50 more but had trouble reloading and during the pause he was chased outside by some congregation members.
Kaye was hit twice as she prayed in the synagogue foyer.
Kaye’s husband, Howard Kaye, carried the Torah through the street.
The ceremony was conducted by Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who lost a finger in the attack and appeared with his hands bandaged. An 8-year-old girl and her uncle also were wounded.
On Tuesday, new federal charges were filed against the accused gunman. A grand jury handed up a revised indictment against John T. Earnest, 19, that adds four counts of discharging a firearm during crimes of violence.
He earlier pleaded not guilty to 109 federal charges, including committing a hate crime, and to state charges, including murder. Those charges also include attempted arson at a mosque in nearby Escondido a month earlier.
Prosecutors haven’t decided whether to seek the death penalty.
A federal affidavit filed earlier this month describes a deeply disturbed man filled with hatred toward Jews and Muslims, which is detailed in online writings. Earnest claimed to be inspired by the attacks on the mosques in New Zealand and the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue last fall, the affidavit said.
Court documents said Earnest dialed 911 after fleeing the house of worship in his car and said: “I just shot up a synagogue.” He went on to tell the dispatcher that he did it “because Jewish people are destroying the white race,” according to the affidavit. He was arrested without a struggle.
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