California shooting suspect denies murder

San Diego Police secure the scene of a shooting incident at the Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway, north of San Diego, California. (Reuters pic)

LOS ANGELES: The teenager accused of shooting dead a worshipper and wounding three others in a shooting at a California synagogue pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and hate crimes charges.

John Earnest, 19, stood motionless and silent for much of the hearing as his lawyer entered his plea.

He is accused of opening fire with an assault rifle on the congregation of the Chabad of Poway synagogue, near San Diego, on Saturday – the final day of Passover.

He will remain behind bars until his next court appearance, set for May 30.

Lori Kaye, 60, was killed, while 57-year-old rabbi Yisroel Goldstein lost an index finger.

Almog Peretz, 34, and his eight-year-old niece Noya Dahan were also wounded, and have since been discharged from hospital.

Earnest also faces charges over an arson attack on a mosque in nearby Escondido, for which he claimed responsibility in an online manifesto. Nobody was hurt in the fire.

The attack in Poway came exactly six months after a white supremacist shot dead 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – the worst attack against Jewish people in the modern history of the United States.

Kaye’s funeral was held Monday with a service led by Goldstein.