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Man showed no emotion after fatal synagogue shooting, federal warrant says

Greg Moran, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO -- The Rancho Bernardo man who is charged with the shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue that killed one person and injured three others told investigators he had developed a hatred for Jews in the previous 18 months, and according to a federal search warrant.

John T. Earnest, 19, was also described in an affidavit by an FBI agent as having a "flat affect," or dispassionate demeanor, "as though he was detached or unaffected by his actions" when he was arrested just minutes after the shooting April 27.

The new information was contained in a search warrant that the FBI obtained for information on postings Earnest made on the online forum 8chan. The site is a well-known forum for hate and extremism.

The warrant also sought information on 8chan users who commented on Earnest's posts, both as potential witnesses or co-conspirators, according to FBI Special Agent Michael J. Rod. The warrant was issued on April 28.

Earnest has been charged in both state and federal courts with murder, attempted murder and hate crimes stemming from the shooting, and arson charges related to an attack on an Escondido mosque on March 24.

He could face the death penalty in either or both cases, He has pleaded not guilty to all charges in both jurisdiction. His federal public defender Kathleen Nester declined to comment on the warrant Sunday.

The warrant said that when Earnest was arrested authorities found a helmet with a Go-Pro camera attached to it in his car. They have previously said he planned to live steam the shooting, in a grisly copying of the new Zealand man who opened fire in a mosque in New Zealand and was able to live stream the murders.

Earnest left a posting on 8chan on the day of the shooting.

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"It's been real dudes," it began, and included, "I've only been lurking here for a year and a half yet what I've learned here is priceless." Rod said that comment "suggests that Earnest was inspired and/or educated by individuals who commented on his threads."

Rod wrote in the affidavit that in an interrogation after he was arrested Earnest told a San Diego police detective that "he had adopted his ideology of hate for members of the Jewish religion approximately 18 months earlier.

He also left a playlist of music -- "all the awesome tunes I had planned" -- he apparently planned to play during the live steam of the attack, according to the warrant. He also left a link to a "manifesto" he wrote in advance about his plans and reasons for the attack.

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