Poway synagogue attack so very, very, vile
Like the Sri Lanka church bombers, the Poway synagogue attacker seemed to come from the cream of society, and from an intact home. Like his fellow Rancho Penasquitos mass shooter, 2015 Denver theatre killer James Holmes, whose Sparren Avenue home was two miles from the attacker's own home at Freeport Court, he also seemed to be an academic achiever. Something went very wrong with this seemingly normal person, John Earnest, who spewed out an ocean of murderous anti-Semitism and is now heading for prison.
It's tempting to want to blame the culture. Since I have family in Rancho Penasquitos, I can describe the place to some extent. It's an upscale neighborhood of fairly new houses, selling in the $800,000 range. It's family friendly and low crime. It's diverse the way much of SoCal is diverse - white, Latino and Asian being most dominant. The Jewish community is quite small and not a topic of hate-talk. The schools are good. The kids are achievers. The parents are helicopter parents. The kids' days are usually occupied 24/7 with organized activities. There's a bit of materialism and a search for status symbols, but seems to be balanced out by a family orientation. The Republican count is high. The churches are full. There isn't much underworld, there isn't much interest in gun culture, and the local cops consider Penasquitos, and for that matter, nearby Poway, a very dull beat.
So the news that a second spray-shooter emerged from this subdivision is very unnerving. And make no mistake, this guy was evil - writing in his 'manifesto' that he was throwing away his life because he was a racist and wanted to fight for the white race. He was emboldened by the fact that he got away with arson on a mosque earlier, he was imitating past spray shooters, and his aim was to encourage more spray shootings, to be that guy the next spray shooter wanted to emulate. His agenda was, make no mistake, evil, something that seemed to go beyond mere mental illness.
Experts have pointed to commonalities in mass shooters - they're collectors of grievances, they often have histories of domestic violence, and they're loaded with a sense of entitlement. At least some of those categories probably fit this 19 year old pariah for motive, and it should be looked into. But the likely response, calling to grab guns, is unlikely to prevent anything, given that the root of the problem was the mind of this teenaged monster. If he didn't have access to guns, knives, hijacking, vehicles, or bombs could substitute.
Other factors seem to be emerging, too - Earnest seemed to have a big life on the 'dark web' -- something terrorists and other mass shooters also seem to have in common. One wonders if these creeps, hiding behind their anonymity, let their ids out to say things they would never say around civilized people, and then engage in groupthink to encourage each other in their crimes, as pairs of criminals often do, yet without human contact, leaving them loners. Mass shooters, by the way, aren't the only ones in San Diego who have been found to be in this category - an awful event last summer around a YouTube aficionado who rammed cars on a San Diego highway near La Jolla would fit into this category, too. Another YouTube lunatic, also with ties to San Diego, a female, shot up YouTube headquarters in 2018, isolated and overly involved in the web. More surveillance of these misfits and losers by lawmen could be a better response than gun grabs or blaming President Trump, which is likely to be the call from the left.
Another factor, just speculative at this point, is the prevalance of pot. We know that Holmes and Norwegian mass shooter as well as the Arizona freak who shot Rep. Gabby Giffords were all prodigious consumers of marijuana. Pot is legal now in California, meaning, it's easy to get hold of. It affects different people differently, but studies do show that young men who may have a predisposition to schizophrenia (which includes paranoia) can trigger that serious mental illness. It's something that ought to be looked into, too.
One thing does stand out pretty clearly is that Earnest was a copycat, claiming he was imitating the New Zealand mosque shooter and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter. Experts have pointed out that the most dangerous time frame window is ten days after a shooting, as Dr. Jaclyn Schildkraut did at an American Freedom Alliance conference last year. Sadly, the San Diego cops, who could put this information to good use, may not have had it - they guarded the Catholic cathedral in the wake of the Sri Lanka shooting for a day or two as a preemptive measure, but the ten days didn't finishing ticking - and they needed to be guarding the synagogues. Meanwhile, mass shooters truly love getting their names in the paper, which is a good reason not to print them, something that the press does for rape victims, but still hasn't taken to heart with these kinds of criminals. It's likely a better response to preventing mass shootings than attempted gun grabs.
The silver lining of course, is that the entire community is not evil. It's rallying around the synagogue to support them. The genuine bravery of the people at the synagogue - including the heroic self-sacrifice of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, the woman who died, throwing herself in front of her rabbi to save him, the steely courage of the rabbi, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who based on reports was very severely wounded in the hand, and the response from the off-duty Border Patrol agent to attempt to stop the killer, possibly chasing him off and saving others (quite unlike the Parkland shooting's politically connected Coward of Broward) is heartening. The focus should be on them now, not the wretched perpetrator.
Image credit: ABC10 via shareable YouTube screen shot