In the aftermath of the attack on Chabad of Poway, a California synagogue, during Passover, some observers were surprised to hear that there was only one fatality. As tragic as that is, similar attacks, such as that perpetrated by the New Zealand mosque shooter or the Florida nightclub shooter, were far deadlier. The contrast is stark enough to make one wonder if a member of the synagogue didn’t resolve to do something heroic. Turns out there was one real-life hero there that day who did just that: combat veteran, and Orthodox Jew, Oscar Stewart.
While worshipers read the Torah, a gunman burst into Chabad of Poway. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein said, “Here is a young man standing with a rifle, pointing right at me, and I look at him. He had sunglasses on. I couldn’t see his eyes. I couldn’t see his soul.” The alleged gunman, John T. Earnest, left a manifesto before launching his attack, which was apparently inspired by recent Islamophobic and anti-Semitic murderers.
When the shooting began, Stewart began to evacuate with everyone else but then turned around and went back. He says he doesn’t know exactly why, but he ran at Earnest and attempted to tackle him. The 19-year-old gunman fled, with Stewart chasing him out into the parking lot. As Earnest got into his car and drove away, an off-duty border patrol agent drew his sidearm and discharged four rounds into the vehicle. As it sped away, Stewart and the agent took note of the license plate number. Back in the synagogue, Stewart found Rabbi Goldstein covered in blood and a friend named Lori Gilbert-Kaye dead. She’d been shot in the chest.
Stewart served as an EOD tech in the Navy during the ’90s but then went back for more with the Army after the 9/11 attacks, deploying to Iraq. The off-duty border patrol agent who fired on Earnest in the parking lot was a member of the synagogue, and according to reports, was handed the weapon by another member of the congregation who lawfully carried. “It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun,” he told the Daily Caller.
In an interview with the LA Times, Stewart remarked, “I’m not a hero or anything. I just reacted. I thank God that he gave me the courage to do what I did.”