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Woman who was slain at synagogue was trying to protect rabbi

By
Allen Cone
Lori Kaye died at a nearby hospital after being shot at Congregation Chabad in Poway, about 30 miles north of San Diego. Photo courtesy Audrey Jacobs/Facebook
Lori Kaye died at a nearby hospital after being shot at Congregation Chabad in Poway, about 30 miles north of San Diego. Photo courtesy Audrey Jacobs/Facebook

April 28 (UPI) -- A 60-year-old woman killed at a Jewish Orthodox synagogue near San Diego jumped between the shooter and the rabbi to protect the clergy member from further injuries, a friend said.

Lori Kaye died at a nearby hospital, the sole fatality in the shooting at Congregation Chabad in Poway, about 30 miles north of San Diego, late Saturday morning on the last day of Passover. Three other people, including Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, were transported to Palomar Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries and were released Sunday. The suspect, John Earnest, a 19-year-old student at California State University San Marcos, was apprehended while driving away from site, and on Sunday was charged with one count of first-degree murder and four counts of first-degree attempted murder.

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Roneet Lev told CNN she was not at her synagogue's Passover Holiday Celebration, which drew about 100 parishioners, but rushed to the hospital when she learned about the gunfire.

As he was being wheeled into surgery, Goldstein told Lev how her friend of 25 years saved his life.

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"She didn't die a senseless death," Lev said. "She died advertising the problem we have with anti-Semitism and to bring good to this world ... If God put an angel on this planet, it would have been Lori."

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Kaye attended services to say a Kaddish prayer for her mother, who died in November, according to Lev.

Kaye's husband, a physician, rushed to the scene to perform CPR on victims after he heard about the shooting. He fainted when he learned his wife was a victim.

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The couple have a 22-year-old daughter.

Another friend of the family, Audrey Jacobs, posted a tribute in Facebook with a photo she urged people to share.

"Lori you were a jewel of our community a true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor. You were always running to do a mitzvah (good deed) and gave tzedaka (charity) to everyone. Your final good deed was taking the bullets for Rabbi Mendel Goldstein to save his life."

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Despite being shot, the rabbi urged calmness and prayed for peace.

"Rabbi said, 'We are united,'" said Minoo Anvari, a refugee from Iran, who said her husband saw the shooting.

Goldstein described the ordeal to CNN on Sunday.

"It is so horrific. I met the terrorist face to face, eye to eye," he said. "Our eyes locked and he aimed at me and miraculously, I was able to just survive losing my fingers but still alive here to say today.

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"Sadly, my colleague, my long-time mentor was Lori Kaye, that was standing between the lobby, did not survive. She was shot point-blank."

The rabbi lost his right index finger.

"I was centimeters away from being shot point blank, and I got away from losing my index finger that will be a scar forever," he said. "But that scar is going to remind me how vulnerable we are, but yet how heroic each one of us can be to stand up and fight against terror."

Also wounded was Noya Dahan, 9, who was attending services with her two sisters. She was wounded in one leg and in the face, and was transferred to Rady Children's Hospital.

The family had moved from Israel eight years ago, hoping to move into a safer place after the father and mother were injured by rockets.

Israel Dahan told CNN they were "under the impression that everything is good here. Today we noticed this is not even close to be regular life."

Also injured was Almog Peretz, who is Dahan's brother-in-law. He was wounded by shrapnel while trying to protect his niece, the girl's father said. Peretz was visiting from Israel.

Witnesses said around six or seven shots were fired from an AR-type assault weapon.

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On Sunday in an updated news release, San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said Oscar Stewart "risked his life to stop the shooter and saved lives in the process." Stewart pursued the the suspect as he was about to drive away, the sheriff said.

Then, an unidentified off-duty Border Patrol Agent caught up to the suspect's late-model Honda sedan and "yelled for Mr. Stewart to get out of the way." His ammunition struck the car.

A K-9 officer pulled over the car near the Interstate 5-Rancho Bernardo Road intersection. The suspect jumped out of his car and put his hands up, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said during the news conference.

Earnest is being detained on no bail at the San Diego County Jail. Arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday.

The San Diego Sheriff's Department executed search warrants of his home and interviewed approximately 100 people who were victims and witnesses to the shooting, the sheriff said Sunday.

Detectives are "collecting digital evidence," including reviewing the online content "to determine its validity and authenticity," Gore said at a news conference Saturday night.

CNN obtained an anonymous letter posted to the message board 8chan before the shooting that talks about planning an attack and mentions shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh six months ago and the Christchurch mosque in New Zealand in March.

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The writer also claims responsibility for a mosque fire in Escondido, 30 miles north of San Diego, last month.

The person also explained his disdain for Jews.

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus told CNN the shooting is a hate crime "because of statements that were made when the shooter entered."'

On Saturday night, an estimated 900 people attended a service and candlelight ceremony at the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church.

The synagogue, founded in in 1986, is affiliated with Lubavitch, a branch within Orthodox Judaism's Hasidic movement.

Many congregants live near the synagogue because Orthodox Jews are forbidden to drive on the sabbath.

"I see Orthodox Jews walking to their synagogue and we've never had a problem," Walter Vandivort told The New York Times.

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