Poway Synagogue Shooter Maintains Influence Online

January 12, 2022 CEP Staff

On December 28, the U.S. Southern District of California sentenced Poway synagogue shooter John T. Earnest to life in prison with an additional 30 years. On April 27, 2019, Earnest shot and killed one woman, injured three other individuals, and attempted to kill 50 others when he opened fire at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California. Earnest claims he was inspired by New Zealand shooter Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people at two mosques one month earlier. Earnest wrote in his manifesto he hoped to inspire similar shootings. A California state court previously sentenced Earnest to life without parole in September 2021.

During Earnest’s sentencing, the Justice Department noted the manifesto authored by Earnest prior to the shootings, replete with antisemitic and anti-Muslim statements, and a desire to kill those of the Jewish faith. Since the attack, this manifesto has surfaced several times on white supremacist Telegram channels and other social media platforms. For the one-year anniversary of the shooting, these channels posted quotes from the manifesto while also calling Earnest a “saint.” On the second anniversary, at least two dozen white supremacist Telegram channels commemorated the shooting by posting the manifesto and advocating for additional violence against Jews. And following Earnest’s first sentencing this past September, at least 17 Telegram channels uploaded content glorifying him and encouraging additional violence.

The manifesto was first posted by Earnest on 8chan/pol. The “politically incorrect” (/pol) sections of online message boards, such as 8chan, have glorified and encouraged violence perpetrated by lone actors. Before his March 2019 Christchurch attack, Tarrant posted links to his manifesto and livestream on 8chan. Patrick Crusius, the alleged El Paso mass shooter, did so as well.

In all three cases, board users continued to spread manifestos, memes, and other content praising the shooters after the events transpired. It is significant that copycats of Tarrant have also used 8chan and posted their manifestos on the site, showing their allegiance to the forum and its users and hoping to radicalize others and inspire further acts of white supremacist violence. After 8chan was taken offline, similar behavior has reportedly continued on analogous bulletin boards, while communities on 8chan successor bulletin boards continue to call for violence. While incarcerated, Earnest has continued to post new writings to prisoner support websites.

To read the Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s resource Antisemitism Resurgent: Manifestations Of Antisemitism In The 21St Century, please click here.  

To read CEP’s resource Violent Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism –Transnational Connectivity, Definitions, Incidents, Structures and Countermeasures, please click here.

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Fact:

On August 13, 2017, suspected al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) gunmen opened fire on a Turkish restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 19 people were killed and 22 others were wounded.    

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