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The off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent who helped save the Jews at the Chabad in Poway, California, by chasing after the terrorist who began shooting at worshippers, had been previously asked by the rabbi of the synagogue to come armed to services.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who had two fingers blown off by the shooter during the Sabbath services that also centered on the last day of Passover, said of off-duty agent Jonathan Morales, “Morales recently discovered his Jewish roots. He would travel three and a half hours from El Centro to pray with us at our shul (synagogue). He felt this was his house of worship. And many times I said, ‘Jonathan, you work for the border patrol. Please arm yourself when you are here; we never know when we will need it.’”
Goldstein explained to CNN, “Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to have an armed security officer at every service, so whenever we had extra help, we were grateful for it.”
Morales had joined in the pursuit of the shooter after the gunman entered the synagogue on Saturday and shot four people: Goldstein, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, who died shielding the rabbi, 8-year-old Noya Dahan, and her uncle, Almog Peretz.
As ABC7 reported, the shooter aimed his gun at Goldstein, blowing his fingers off as Goldstein raised his hands to protect his face. Goldstein said, “I turned around and I saw the children that were playing in the banquet hall. I ran to gather them together. My granddaughter, four-and-a-half years old, sees her grandpa with a bleeding hand and she sees me screaming and shouting, ‘Get out, get out.'”
While Goldstein and Peretz tried to rush the children out, the gunman shot Peretz and the child Dahan. A former combat veteran, Oscar Stewart, who served in the Navy from1990 to 1994, then joined the Army after 9/11 and served in Iraq in 2003-2004, rushed directly at the gunman, asserting after the incident that he knew that the gunman could not target him if he were within five feet of him. He yelled at the gunman, “I’m going to kill you!” and later told Rachel Stoltzfoos of The Daily Caller:
I heard gunshots. And 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 towards the gun shots. When I came around the corner into the lobby area, I saw the individual with a gun, and he fired two rounds. I knew I had to be within five feet of this guy so his rifle couldn’t get to me. 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. And I yelled at him and I must have yelled very loud, and he looked at me, and I must have had a really mean look on my face or something, because he immediately dropped his weapon and turned and ran. And then I gave chase.
Reports said the shooter’s gun jammed before he fled to his car, but Stewart said that was unlikely because the gunman had a semi-automatic rifle. He said, “Full automatic weapons will jam. Semi-automatic weapons do not jam.” Stewart surmised that the magazine for the rifle was empty so the gunman dropped the weapon before he fled to his car. Stewart said he started pounding on the vehicle, then saw the gunman reach for a rifle before Morales came running and yelled for Stewart to get down because Morales had a gun.
Stoltzfoos reported, “The agent fired several rounds into the lower part of the vehicle, intending to disable it, but the shooter managed to drive away. The two of them then grabbed a phone from someone and called the police to report his license plate. The shooter later turned himself in.”