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California synagogue shooting: Injured rabbi came face-to-face with gunman

A rabbi injured in a deadly shooting at a synagogue in California has told how he came face-to-face with the gunman.

Describing the attacker as a “murderer” and “terrorist”, Yisroel Goldstein said the killer was “holding a rifle and looking straight at me”.

Speaking on NBC’s Today show, the rabbi said: “As soon as he saw me, he started to shoot towards me. My fingers got blown away.”

During the shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, 60-year-old Lori Kaye died after throwing herself in front of the rabbi.

Her friend Audrey Jacobs has paid tribute on Facebook, calling her a “jewel of our community”.

Ms Jacobs wrote the attacker “shot and killed Lori Kaye who took the bullets for the rabbi. Tragically the rabbi was still shot in the hand and he gave a sermon telling everyone to stay strong.

“When the rabbi was being wheeled into surgery, he said, ‘Let everyone know Lori Kaye saved me.'”

She added: “Lori would have wanted all of us to stand up to hate. She was a warrior of love and she will be missed.”

Ms Kaye was married and had a 22-year-old daughter.

The gunman walked into the crowded synagogue in Poway near San Diego late on Saturday, the last day of the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, and opened fire on worshippers with an assault-style rifle.

The other two people wounded were an eight-year-old Israeli girl and her uncle, who are both said to be “doing well” in hospital.

Youngster Noya Dahan was hit in the face and leg by shrapnel, and Almong Peretz, 34, was shot in the leg as he ushered children in a playroom to safety.

Their family had moved to the US in search of a safer life after their home in Sderot on the Gaza border was hit several times by Palestinian rocket attacks.

One witness, who saw Mr Peretz rescue children at the synagogue, told Fox 5 San Diego: “He grabbed all the kids in his hands and was just running towards the exit (when) he saw another kid over there.

“He grabbed him and started running and the shooter shot him in the leg. He didn’t care. He kept on running with the kids and just ran out.”

The gunman was chased out of the building when an off-duty border patrol officer fired back at him.

Police said the suspect, identified as 19-year-old John Earnest, from San Diego, fled in a car but then pulled over and surrendered to officers.

He is thought to have written a manifesto filled with racist rants and praise for the suspects in the New Zealand mosque shootings in which 50 people were killed.

He allegedly wrote on an online message board that he planned to livestream his attack in San Diego, which took place exactly six months after shootings at a synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 people died.

Authorities are also investigating Earnest’s possible involvement last month in an arson attack on a mosque 15 miles away.

Speaking from the White House after the synagogue attack, President Trump offered his “deepest sympathies” to those affected and said the shooting “looked like a hate crime”.

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