SAN DIEGO - Members of the Congregation Chabad community are grateful to one of three surviving shooting victims, 34-year-old Almog Peretz, for saving children from the hail of bullets inside the synagogue Saturday.
Witnesses said when a gunman burst into the synagogue on the final day of Passover, spraying the congregation with bullets, Peretz began grabbing children by the hands and running with them to the exits.
“[The gunman] was just shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting. Like crazy. Just spraying,” Danny Almog said. “All I cared about was finding my kids. I was on the floor crawling to go through the exit."
Almog spotted his father-in-law using his body to shield one of his children from the bullets, but he couldn't find his daughter.
"I couldn’t see her anywhere. I was screaming, 'Yuli, Yuli, where are you?' And I was looking for her in the room,” Almog said.
Then he heard Peretz say he had Almog's daughter with him.
“He grabbed all the kids in his hands and was just running towards the exit [when] he saw another kid over there," Almog said. "He grabbed him and started running and [that's when] the shooter shot him in the leg. He didn’t care. He kept on running with the kids and just ran out.”
Peretz was recovering at the hospital Saturday night, along with a rabbi who was shot in the hand and a young girl who was struck by the gunfire. Medical officials said all three will survive.
Another woman, 60-year-old Lori Kaye, died from her injuries a short time after the shooting, however. Friends and neighbors said Kaye was a loving mother and wife and an avid gardener.
A vigil at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church brought members of many faiths together in solidarity Saturday night to honor Kaye and the other victims.
A San Diego man, 19-year-old John Earnest, was arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack.
The attack came on the last day of Passover, and about six months after a deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. In an emotional address Poway Mayor Steve Vaus called the attack a hate crime.
"We will walk through this tragedy with our arms around each other," he said. "This is not Poway."
A GoFundMe linked to a verified charitable organization is raising funds for the victims.