- Getty Images/Sandy Huffaker
- An Iraq War veteran and an off-duty Border Patrol agent helped chase the gunman who opened fire on a Poway, California, synagogue on Saturday, killing one woman.
- Oscar Stewart, the veteran, told reporters on Tuesday his military training kicked in when he heard the gunfire. He said he yelled at the gunman and chased him outside.
- Then, an off-duty Border Patrol agent opened fire on the shooter, missing him but striking his vehicle.
- Both men have been praised for their courage and quick thinking in the wake of the attack.
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An Iraq War veteran and an armed, off-duty Border Patrol agent are being praised as heroes in the wake of a deadly shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California.
The attack, which killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and injured three others, began when a gunman opened fire with what police later said was an AR-style rifle.
But two of the congregants ran toward the gunshots as soon as they heard them. One was Oscar Stewart, an Army veteran who told reporters on Tuesday that his military training kicked in when he heard the gunfire, and the other was an off-duty Border Patrol agent who had been armed at the request of the synagogue’s rabbi.
Stewart said he began shouting expletives at the gunman, who then stopped shooting.
“I ran to fire. That’s what I did. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t think about it. It’s just what I did,” Stewart said, according to USA Today. Stewart said he yelled things like, “Get down!” and “I’m going to kill you.”
Stewart said he then chased the shooter out of the synagogue and over to his vehicle. When he began punching the gunman’s window, he heard Morales tell him to get out of the way.
“He yelled, ‘Clear back, I have a gun,'” and then Morales opened fire, according to Stewart.
Though the shooter was uninjured, Morales struck his car as he was driving away.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Stewart’s account in a statement, calling his actions “an act of courage” that “saved lives in the process.”
- AFP/Sandy Huffaker via Getty Images
The synagogue’s rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, has also lauded Morales publicly. He told CNN that Morales only recently discovered his own Jewish heritage, and drove three and a half hours to pray with the congregants.
“He’s an extremely kind, friendly person, and I’ve spoken to him in the past about coming to the synagogue armed, because he is trained, and I want trained security as much as possible,” Goldstein said. “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.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan also acknowledged Morales’ role in the attack, releasing a statement shortly after the shooting.
“We are thankful that one of our own, an off-duty Border Patrol agent, was able to assist in the response and likely prevented the deaths of more worshipers,” McAleenan said.