Meet the Iraq War Vet Who Helped Prevent a Bloodbath at the Poway Synagogue in California
One brave American chased the shooting suspect — right after another person threw herself in front of the rabbi to protect him
If you do not yet know the name Oscar Stewart — you will soon not forget it.
Stewart spoke Sunday about the remarkable and heroic actions he took at Chabad of Poway in Poway, California, on Saturday, when he confronted suspect John Earnest, 19, who now stands accused of killing one member of the Jewish congregation and injuring three others when he opened fire with an assault-style rifle.
Earnest is now in police custody.
“I heard gunshots,” Stewart, who is 51, told The Daily Caller.
He was in the rear of the synagogue, he said. Congregants were celebrating Passover when the gunman opened fire.
“Everybody got up and started trying to get out the back door, so I — for whatever reason — I didn’t do that. I ran the other way. I ran [toward] the gunshots.”
“I knew I had to be within five feet of this guy so his rifle couldn’t get to me,” Stewart also told the publication. “So I ran immediately toward him, and I yelled as loud as I could. And he was scared. I scared the hell out of him.”
Stewart said sheer instinct took over.
By the time Stewart reached Earnest in the lobby of the house of worship, the shooter’s assault rifle had jammed somehow after he fired six rounds, the synagogue’s rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, told The New York Post.
After Stewart began yelling and shouting at him, the shooter ran out of the synagogue, with Stewart following close on his heels.
During the Synagogue Shooting, this man ran toward the gunfire and chased off the shooter.
As the shooter tried to escape, a Border Patrol agent engaged the shooter & prevented him from continuing his terror.
Remember the names of heroes like Oscar Stewart, not the shooter! pic.twitter.com/QxITVcklBQ
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) April 29, 2019
Stewart served in Iraq with the U.S. Army from March 2003 to April 2004, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
He worked in the Navy before that as a bomb disposal tech.
“I served in Iraq. I never thought I’d hear gunfire again.”
Today he works in construction.
“I served in Iraq,” Stewart told The Union-Tribune. “I never thought I’d hear gunfire again.”
He also gave credit to off-duty Border Patrol Agent Jonathan Morales for snapping into action right along with him.
Once the suspect had entered his car, Stewart said Morales joined him — and opened fire at the man who had just terrorized the synagogue.
“He said, ‘Clear back, I have a gun,” Stewart told The Union-Tribune. “He fired five rounds or so into the car.”
Together their actions almost certainly prevented further violence.
"He spoke to me like a buddy … He was exceedingly kind and sensitive."
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) April 29, 2019
Police later caught up with Earnest on an interstate — and arrested him.
They found a rifle in his front passenger seat.
Congregrant Lori Kaye, 60, who reportedly was the synagogue to mourn her own mother, jumped between the shooter and the rabbi when shots rang out.
She later died at a nearby hospital.
My heart was broken reading Elan Lee's Letter about his friend Lori Kaye who was killed Saturday. She was a remarkable and caring woman. Exclusive: Friend of Synagogue Shooting Victim Shares Heartfelt Account of Lori Gilbert-Kaye's Life https://t.co/RpxCkhJdrM via @SaraCarterDC
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) April 29, 2019
The rabbi suffered what appeared to be defensive wounds to both his index fingers, a doctor at the Palomar Medical Center said, as CNN reported.
On Saturday night, during a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, President Donald Trump condemned the violence, saying, “Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated.”
On Monday, the family of the suspect released a statement expressing shock and sadness for the “grief and anguish our son has caused … so many innocent people.”
The Poway synagogue shooting is the latest in a wave of recent attacks on houses of worship.
Late on Monday afternoon, The Los Angeles Times reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, supports the California Legislative Jewish Caucus in calling for $15 million in state funds to improve security at synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions.