"I was scared, really, really scared," said Noya, recalling how the group of children cried out of fear after a gunman entered Chabad of Poway on Saturday morning and started shooting. "I didn't see my dad. I thought he was dead."
The onslaught on the last day of Passover, a Jewish holiday celebrating freedom, wounded Dahan, her uncle Almog Peretz and the congregation's rabbi. The attack killed beloved congregant Lori Kaye, 60.
Authorities said the 19-year-old gunman opened fire as about 100 people were worshipping exactly six months after a mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Police searched Earnest's house and said he was also being investigated in connection with an arson attack on a mosque in nearby Escondido, California, on March 24. He was being held without bail, and it was unclear if he had an attorney.
There were indications an AR-type assault weapon might have malfunctioned after the gunman fired numerous rounds inside, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said. An off-duty Border Patrol agent fired at the shooter as he fled, missing him but striking his getaway vehicle, the sheriff said.
Shortly after fleeing, Earnest called 911 to report the shooting, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. When an officer reached him on a roadway, "the suspect pulled over, jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody," he said.
When the gunfire erupted, another worshipper, Shimon Abitbul, said he immediately placed his 2-year-old grandson on the floor and waited for a break in the shooting to grab the boy and sprint away.
Abitbul, who was visiting from Israel and staying with his daughter and her family in Southern California, said he was still coming to grips with the carnage. "All of us are human beings," he said. "It doesn't matter if you are Jews or Christians or Muslims."
Peretz, who was wounded in the leg, said he turned around after hearing gunfire and saw the shooter standing by the door. He grabbed his niece by the hand and carried out another child.
He then saw a group of children and got them running, "I tell them, 'go this way, go this way," said Peretz, who is visiting from Israel.
A person identifying himself as John Earnest posted an anti-Jewish screed online about an hour before the attack. The poster described himself as a nursing school student and praised the suspects accused of carrying out deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand last month that killed 50 and at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, in which 11 people were killed.
"It was a hate crime, no doubt about it," national security adviser John Bolton said on "Fox News Sunday." He said investigators have not seen any connection between the suspect and other extremist groups.
California State University, San Marcos, confirmed that Earnest was a student who was on the dean's list and said the school was "dismayed and disheartened" that he was suspected in "this despicable act."
On Sunday night, hundreds of people gathered at a park for a vigil to honor the victims.
People at the community park near Chabad synagogue in Poway held candles and listened to prayer in Hebrew. Leaders asked community members to do acts of kindness to remember Kaye.