POWAY, Calif. — One person was killed and three injured in an attack Saturday at a synagogue in Poway, San Diego County authorities said.
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting at the Chabad of Poway, officials said.
The gunman entered the synagogue about 11:20 a.m. local time and opened fire on the congregation, sheriff’s officials said.
A large group of congregants had gathered behind the temple following the shooting, said sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Meleen. It was not immediately clear how many people were attending services.
Some children were initially reported missing, he said, but they have been found.
“As you can imagine, it was an extremely chaotic scene with people running everywhere when we got here,” he said.
Those wounded in the shooting were taken to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, Calif., according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, who was at the sheriff’s command center at nearby Chaparral Elementary School, told CNN that there was one fatality and that the shooting was being investigated as a hate crime.
“I understand that this was someone with hate in their heart, hate for the Jewish community,” he said of the shooter.
The mayor, who lives near the site, sought to reassure the community that there was no further threat.
“The scene is safe,” he said. “The subject is custody. We will be in prayer for those injured. … There is no ongoing threat to community.”
Adam Pringle, 32, said he was sitting at a 76 gas station parking lot when a swarm of San Diego police, county sheriff and California Highway Patrol cars descended on the scene less than 50 feet away.
Pringle watched as police officers pulled over the man he believed to be the shooting suspect.
“Hands up or I’ll shoot you!” Pringle heard the officer yell.
The driver quickly put his hands up and the officer walked over with his gun drawn, Pringle said. That’s when the officer quickly arrested the suspect, Pringle said.
Authorities have cordoned off the area about two miles from the Chabad of Poway, he said.
Several neighbors reported hearing the gunshots, and some were evacuated from nearby homes to the school temporarily as a precaution.
Cantor Caitlin Bromberg of Ner Tamid Synagogue, which is down the street from Chabad of Poway, said her congregation learned of the shooting at the end of their Passover services. Saturday marked the eighth and final day of Passover, a holiday that marks the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt and freedom from slavery.
Bromberg said her congregants were en route to Chabad of Poway to show support and help in any way that they can.
“We are horrified and upset and we want them to know we are thinking of them,” she told The Times. “The message of the final day of Passover is to be looking forward to … the time when all the world will be at peace.”
Bromberg said someone from the congregation had received a text that there was a shooting at a synagogue in Poway. The person who sent the text did not know which temple was targeted and wanted to make sure the congregant was OK.
Bromberg said she has not heard from the leadership of the Chabad of Poway because they would not normally use the phone during the Sabbath.
“They would only do that on emergency basis, if they do it at all,” she said.
San Diego police were keeping watch on other local synagogues as a precaution. “No known threats,” Chief David Nisleit said on Twitter, “however in an abundance of caution, we will be providing extra patrol at places of worship.”
In Los Angeles, police said they were closely monitoring the synagogue shooting in Poway and “communicating with our local, state and federal partners.”
“At this time, there’s no nexus to Los Angeles, but in an abundance of caution, we will conduct high visibility patrols around synagogues and other houses of worship,” the department tweeted.
Passover is one of the most sacred holidays in the Jewish faith. The eight-day festival is typically observed with a number of rituals, including Seder meals, the removal of leavened products from the home and the sharing of the exodus story.
The incident comes seven months after a man with a history of posting anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant social media messages opened fire at a temple in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and wounding six more.
The Anti-Defamation League called that incident “the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States” and it underscored growing hate against Jews.
Kristina Davis is a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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