SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Associated Press and other media outlets are asking a San Diego judge to unseal 17 search warrants that contain details about the April shooting at a synagogue in the suburb of Poway that killed one worshipper and injured three others, including the rabbi.
A San Diego Superior Court judge was scheduled to hear the matter Thursday.
Law enforcement obtained the warrants to search the car and home of the gunman, John T. Earnest, and places he visited.
Police say the nursing student opened fire on the Chabad of Poway on April 27 during Passover service. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges.
Prosecutors have said the 19-year-old gunman fired at least eight rounds before he stopped to fumble with his semiautomatic rifle and then fled with 50 unused bullets.
Judges sealed the warrants at the request of investigators, who have not said publicly why that was necessary. The San Diego District Attorney’s Office in its response to the media request told the court it would not object to the unsealing if the names of witnesses and investigators were redacted from the documents. The media in their filing said they would be fine with that.
The search warrants could help answer questions including whether the suspect obtained a hunting license to legally purchase the weapon.
Lawyers representing the media outlets have argued the documents should have been unsealed ten days after investigators filed them with the court.
The AP jointly asked for the documents to be unsealed along with the San Diego media outlets, NBC 7, KFMB News 8, Fox 5 San Diego, and the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Attorney Elizabeth Baldridge, representing the media, wrote in court filings requesting the documents be unsealed that “mass shootings, religiously and/or racially motivated attacks, and violence at places of worship have all become tragically common in the United States, and the public has a substantial interest in understanding the motivations behind these crimes and obtaining transparency in the process of bringing alleged perpetrators to justice.”
She added that unsealing the documents will instill trust in the judicial process and in turn will serve a “therapeutic” purpose for families and the community.
By JULIE WATSON
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