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Federal hate crimes charged in San Diego synagogue attack

SAN DIEGO — A federal prosecutor says a 19-year-old man accused of a deadly attack on a Southern California synagogue called a 911 dispatcher and said he thought he killed some people, and did it because he was “trying to defend my nation” against Jews.

U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer Jr. announced in San Diego on Thursday the filing of 109 federal hate crimes charges against John T. Earnest stemming from last month’s shooting at Chabad of Poway that killed a woman and wounded three other people.

The new charges also include an earlier arson at a nearby mosque.

Brewer says authorities will not allow “community members to be hunted in their houses of worship.”

Federal and local law enforcement officials announced the charges at a news conference in San Diego on Thursday.

Prosecutors say Earnest killed a woman and wounded an 8-year-old girl, her uncle and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was leading the service on the last day of Passover, a major Jewish holiday.

In a court appearance last month, Earnest pleaded not guilty to state charges of murder and attempted murder. In a separate case, he has pleaded not guilty to burning a mosque in nearby Escondido.

Authorities say he fired at least eight shots in the synagogue before fleeing.

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