US

Trump Says He Spoke With Rabbi After Synagogue Shooting, Praises Him as ‘Great Guy’

By Zachary Stieber

President Donald Trump said that he spoke to the rabbi in charge of the synagogue where a shooter opened fire over the weekend, killing one and leaving three others injured.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was one of the injured at Chabad of Poway in California. The president said that he spoke at length with Goldstein on April 28, the day after the shooting.

“I extended my warmest condolences to him and all affected by the shooting in California,” Trump said on Twitter.

The president said that he was impressed by the rabbi. “What a great guy. He had a least one finger blown off, and all he wanted to do is help others. Very special!” Trump said.

Goldstein said at a press conference on Sunday that he was grateful to Trump for reaching out.

“I was amazed,” Goldstein said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever spoken with the president of the United States of America.”

He said Trump conveyed his support.

“He spoke about his love of peace and Judaism and Israel and he was so comforting. I’m really grateful to our president for taking the time and making that effort to share with us his comfort and consolation,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein said that he was preparing for a service on the last day of Passover, a holiday celebrating freedom, and heard a loud sound. He turned around, and a saw a young man wearing sunglasses standing in front of him with a rifle.

“I couldn’t see his eyes. I couldn’t see his soul,” Goldstein said. He raised his hands and lost one of his fingers in the shooting.

And then, Goldstein said, “miraculously the gun jammed.”

Two people hug as another talks to a San Diego County Sheriff’s deputy outside of the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, Calif., on April 27, 2019. (Denis Poroy/Photo via AP)

John Earnest, 19, surrendered to police after bursting into the synagogue and opening fire as about 100 people were worshipping inside.

Earnest, who had no previous contact with law enforcement, may face a hate crime charge in addition to homicide charges when he’s arraigned later this week, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said. He was being held without bail, and it was unclear if he had an attorney. Police searched Earnest’s house and said he was also being investigated in connection with an arson attack on a mosque in nearby Escondido, California, on March 24.

An 8-year-old victim said she had just finished praying and was getting ready to go play with other children when gunshots rang out. Her uncle rushed her and the other children outside, the girl said.

Her leg was bleeding but doctors told her she didn’t need surgery, she said.

Candlelight vigil at San Diego California synagogue shooting
A candlelight vigil at a church in Poway, Calif., in honor of the victims of the Congregation Chabad synagogue shooting on April 27, 2019. (John Gastaldo/Reuters)

“I was scared, really, really scared,” she said. “I didn’t see my dad. I thought he was dead.”

Her father, 32-year-old Israel Dahan, said he flipped over a folding table as soon as he saw the man enter carrying a long rifle and told people to run. He went to look for his children and found two had been ushered out and his 5-year-old was hiding in the bathroom, he said.

There were indications an AR-type assault weapon might have malfunctioned after the gunman fired numerous rounds inside, Gore said. An off-duty Border Patrol agent fired at the shooter as he fled, missing him but striking his getaway vehicle, the sheriff said.

Shortly after fleeing, Earnest called 911 to report the shooting, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. When an officer reached him on a roadway, “the suspect pulled over, jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.