Anguish, pain and heartache poured out of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein on Sunday as he recounted the terrorist shooting at his Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego that killed a woman and left him and two others wounded.
"I see a sight that is indescribable," the rabbi said, describing how a gunman pointed a rifle straight at him.
"He wore sunglasses. I couldn’t see his eyes, I couldn't see his soul," Goldstein said, describing the alleged shooter.
Goldstein said he held up his hands as the suspect opened fire, wounding him and blowing off his right index finger.
But the rabbi said most of his pain came from seeing a beloved charter member of his shul, 60-year-old Lori Kaye, lying dead on the floor as her husband, a doctor, frantically tried to resuscitate her.
He sobbed as he described Kaye as a person of "unconditional love" who was always there for those in need, regardless of their race or religion.
?Others wounded were an 8-year-old girl and her uncle -- an Israeli war veteran who the rabbi said took a bullet trying to protect children. Both have been released from the hospital.
Goldstein said President Donald Trump telephoned him Sunday, speaking for about 15 minutes sharing his condolences.
"He was so comforting," Goldstein said.
On Monday, Trump said on Twitter, "I spoke at length yesterday to Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Chabad of Poway, where I extended my warmest condolences to him and all affected by the shooting in California. What a great guy. He had a least one finger blown off, and all he wanted to do is help others. Very special!"
I spoke at length yesterday to Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Chabad of Poway, where I extended my warmest condolences to him and all affected by the shooting in California. What a great guy. He had a least one finger blown off, and all he wanted to do is help others. Very special!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
No fear stance
The rabbi appealed to all Jews to go to their synagogues this Friday night, the start of the Jewish Sabbath, to show solidarity and that "terrorism will never prevail."
"We are a Jewish nation that will stand tall. We will not let anyone or anything take us down. We need to battle darkness with light," he said.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said there is "no doubt" Saturday’s synagogue shooting in San Diego is a hate crime, but that the alleged gunman likely acted alone.
"It was an atrocious and utterly inexcusable action," Bolton told Fox News Sunday.
"Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community," Trump said at a political rally in Wisconsin hours after the shooting. "We forcefully condemn the evils of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated."
Miracle & serendipity
San Diego County police say 19-year-old John Earnest allegedly entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue Saturday and opened fire with an AR-style assault weapon.
Rabbi Goldstein said the suspect's gun "miraculously" jammed and he was then confronted by off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent Jonathan Morales, who Goldstein said "recently discovered his Jewish roots."
Morales fired at the suspect as he fled, missing him but striking his car.
"Sincerest thank you to our great border patrol agent who stopped the shooter at the Synagogue in Poway, California. He may have been off duty but his talents for law enforcement weren’t!" Trump tweeted.
Sincerest THANK YOU to our great Border Patrol Agent who stopped the shooter at the Synagogue in Poway, California. He may have been off duty but his talents for Law Enforcement weren’t!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2019
Earnest called 911 emergency services himself to report the shooting and to tell police where he could be found. He surrendered peacefully with the apparent weapon sitting in the car.
Police say if the weapon had not misfired, the suspect might have killed many more. They also say he tried to livestream the shooting on social media, but that his equipment failed.
Investigators also say Earnest apparently wrote an anti-Semitic manifesto on social media sometime before the shooting, in which he praised those accused of the deadly New Zealand mosque attacks and October’s massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Rabbi Goldstein said his missing index finger will always be a reminder of how vulnerable people are to terrorism.