Poway Rabbi Goldstein is praising two courageous men for their selfless acts, that very likely saved the lives of countless worshipers at the Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover.
The 51-year-old veteran, Oscar Stewart, was the first hero to emerge.
Stewart told reporters that he usually sits near the front of the Synagogue, but made his way to the back of the synagogue to hear the readings of the Torah—that’s when heard a handful of gunshots.
The gunman fired two more rounds in response.
“I’m going to kill you,” Stewart boomed. This seemed to rattle Earnest, who began to flee.
From his time as a sergeant in the Army, Stewart knew that the rifle would be useless if he was within five feet of it. So he kept close to the shooter as he chased him into the parking lot.
The shooter got into a Honda sedan. Stewart, seeing the man reach for his weapon, punched the side of the car. The man started the ignition and let go of the rifle.
That’s when Jonathan Morales, an off-duty Border Patrol agent, shot four bullets into the car. As the shooter sped away, Stewart and Morales took down the license plate number.
Rabbi Goldstein asked Morales to come to the Synagogue armed, in case they ever had an incident. Thank God, he was there and that he was armed, as he was able to chase the shooter away from the synagogue.
The Times of Israel reports – Jonathan Morales, an armed off-duty US Customs and Border Patrol agent who recently discovered his Jewish roots, was among the worshipers at Chabad of Poway on Saturday when John Earnest entered the synagogue near San Diego during Passover services and began shooting.
Agent Jonathan Morales had been driving 3.5 hours to attend services after recently discovering his Jewish roots
“Morales recently discovered his Jewish roots. He would travel three and a half hours from [the California town of] El Centro to pray with us at our shul,” Goldstein told media at a Sunday press conference outside the synagogue. “He felt this was his house of worship. And many times I said, ‘Jonathan, you work for the border patrol. Please arm yourself when you are here; we never know when we will need it.’”
US President Donald Trump spoke with Goldstein on Sunday and took to Twitter to praise the rabbi and Morales, writing: “He may have been off duty but his talents for Law Enforcement weren’t!”
As for why there weren’t any active duty guards at the synagogue, in an earlier interview with CNN Goldstein said, “Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to have an armed security officer at every service, so whenever we had extra help, we were grateful for it.” The Rabbi also suggested that if the government could help them find a way to help them by providing armed security officers synagogues, they would very much appreciate it.
Watch, at the 6:30 mark, Rabbi Goldstein explains how he asked U.S. Border Agent Morales to “Please arm yourself when you are here. You never know when we will need it.”
The 19-year-old gunman killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and wounded three people.
8-year-old Noya Dahan, daughter of a former Israeli soldier, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, who is also a former Israeli soldier were both shot during the attack.
A chain of miracles
In a remarkable series of events, the rabbi and a handful of congregants were able to save a group of children playing in the adjacent banquet hall, preventing a full-fledged massacre.
“I ran [to gather the children],” Goldstein says. “My granddaughter, who is four and a half years old, saw her grandpa with a bleeding hand. She saw me shouting, ‘Get out! Get out!’ She didn’t deserve to see her grandfather like that.”
Aided by Peretz, an Israeli war veteran who was also at Chabad of Poway with his family Sunday, Goldstein was able to usher the children out of the banquet hall with the shooter in pursuit.
But in what Goldstein referred to as a “miracle,” Earnest’s gun jammed. Even while Morales was still on Earnest’s trail, congregants — who had been gathered in the sanctuary and would have made easy targets for Earnest had his gun not jammed — fled to Chabad’s front entrance.