LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anti-Semitic hate crimes in California rose nearly 12% in 2019, including a fatal shooting at a Southern California synagogue, even as hate crimes overall declined statewide by 4.8%, according to a state report released Wednesday.
Hate crimes are historically under-reported and the 2019 data compiled by the state attorney general’s office does not include a recent rise in anti-Asian racism during the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China.
Although the report does not specifically mention the 2019 fatal shooting at the Chabad of Poway, a synagogue outside of San Diego, it's clear that the year's sole hate crime homicide victim is 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye.
Nursing student John T. Earnest is accused of opening fire during a Passover service at the synagogue on April 27, 2019, fatally shooting Gilbert-Kaye and wounding three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the rabbi, who lost a finger. Earnest, then 19, reportedly called 911 to say he had shot up a synagogue because Jews were trying to “destroy all white people.”
He has pleaded not guilty to hate crime-related murder, attempted murder and other charges.
California defines hate crimes as those targeting victims because of their race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender or a disability. The definitions have been expanded at various times in recent years. Each hate crime event can include more than one related offense against more than one victim by more than one offender.
Statewide, reports of hate crime events decreased from 1,066 incidents in 2018 to 1,015 events in 2019. There were 676 violent hate crime offenses in California in 2019, down from 697 in 2018, data show. Property crime offenses also declined, from 369 to 339.
Authorities brought 7.76% fewer hate crime cases to district and city attorneys in 2019 and prosecutors filed charges in 8.2% fewer cases in 2019. Officials have long said hate crimes are among the most difficult to prosecute because it is hard to prove a specific bias motivation.
Hate crime events in California that involved a racial bias fell 12% in 2019, from 594 to 523. Crimes motivated by a sexual orientation bias decreased by 2.1%, from 238 to 233.
Yet hate crime events involving a religion bias rose 3.5%, from 201 to 208, according to the state's data. Anti-Jewish bias events, such as the fatal synagogue shooting, went from 126 to 141, increasing by nearly 12%. Crimes with an anti-Islamic bias, however, decreased from 28 to 25 events, or 10.7%.