Poway shooting victim is recalled as a generous friend deeply protective of her faith

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, pictured during a trip to Israel, died in Saturday’s shooting at Chabad of Poway.
(Courtesy photo)
San Diego Union-Tribune

Friends of Poway resident Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed Saturday in a shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, said they weren’t surprised that she died apparently confronting the 19-year-old gunman who took her life.

“When we heard what happened, we all said to ourselves, ‘Yes, that’s how Lori would have wanted to go,’” said close friend Lisa Busalacchi, who had been close to Gilbert-Kaye since grade school. “I’m pretty sure if she could have picked a place to die, that would’ve been it. She died how she lived.”

Friends described her as a woman who was deeply committed to her Jewish faith, a committed friend and community leader, and the kind of person who wouldn’t hesitate to take a stand in a difficult situation.

Services for Gilbert-Kaye, 60, will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Chabad of Poway, 16934 Chabad Way in Poway. Graveside services will be held at 4 p.m. at El Camino Memorial Park, 5600 Carroll Canyon Road, San Diego.


Gilbert-Kaye was killed as the gunman entered the lobby of the synagogue, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein said at an emotionally charged news conference Sunday afternoon outside Chabad of Poway. Apparently she was the first person the gunman encountered.

Goldstein said he had just greeted Gilbert-Kaye before morning services and stepped away to wash his hands when he heard a big bang. He said at first he thought she must have fell.

When Goldstein turned around, he said, “I see a site that is indescribable. Here is a young man standing with a rifle staring right at me.”

He said the gunman continued firing in his direction, injuring his hands. The gunman wounded two others before fleeing the scene.


Goldstein said after the gunman left, he returned to the lobby and found Gilbert-Kaye lying unconscious on the floor, with her husband trying to resuscitate her.

Goldstein said he believes her sacrifice saved other lives because the shooter’s gun jammed after she was shot.

“Lori took the bullet for all of us,” he said. “She died to protect all of us. She didn’t deserve to die. This is Lori, this is her legacy, and her legacy will continue.”

Pam Kragen writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.