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North Hollywood shooting has temples on alert

LAPD officials not sure attack was motivated by religious hatred

Posted: October 29, 2009 9:53 p.m.
Updated: October 30, 2009 6:30 a.m.
 
A gunman shot and wounded two men in the parking garage of a North Hollywood synagogue Thursday, frightening worshippers who heard gunshots and screams before the bleeding victims stumbled in during morning services.

Authorities initially put Jewish schools and temples on alert before saying the attack appeared to be isolated and may not have been a hate crime.

Two men in their 40s were shot in the legs near the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Orthodox synagogue in the San Fernando Valley, Moore said.

The men, both members of the synagogue, had arrived in separate cars for the morning service shortly before 6:30 a.m. when the gunman shot both several times, police said.

"We certainly recognize the location and we're sensitive to that," Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said. "But we do not know that this was a hate crime at all."

Rabbi Jay Levy, of Or Emet - a Congregation for Jewish Living in Valencia, did not jump to any conclusions.

"I think anybody who makes any judgments before the police conduct an inquiry and come to a conclusion is being foolish or rash," he said. "I hope and pray it's not a hate crime but frankly, a crime is a crime."

"I think every crime as such is a hate crime," said Rabbi Choni Marozov of Chabad of SCV. "For someone to pull a trigger on another human being is a hate crime. Whether it was a religious hate crime or not, I'm not sure."

Marozov said he received an e-mail cautioning synagogues to be on the alert.

"I'm hoping it was a random lunatic as opposed to someone who was part of a group or movement," Marozov said Thursday afternoon. "I've been at that synagogue many times. There's a school next door to it, so it's scary."

The victims were hospitalized in good condition and were expected to fully recover, police said.

Police detained a 17-year-old high school student near the temple because he matched a "very loose" description of the attacker, who was described as a black man wearing a hoodie, Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said. They later released the youth and said he is no longer a suspect.

Officers cordoned off the area and continued to search for a possible suspect, Moore said.

Investigators will look at the synagogue's security videos, he said.

The FBI also responded to the scene, and police alerted nearby Jewish schools and temples and put extra patrols in place. There are several synagogues in the area.

Police initially said the attack was being investigated as a possible hate crime, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cautioned people not to overreact.

"Until they have concluded their investigation, none of us, none of us should presume or speculate more about this crime other than it was a random act of violence," Villaraigosa said.

LAPD First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said investigators were trying to determine whether a similar suspect might have been involved in robberies or other crimes in the area.

The attack occurred 10 miles from the Jewish community center where white supremacist Buford Furrow wounded three children, a teenager and an adult, in 1999. Furrow later killed a Filipino letter carrier on another street.

Furrow, who is serving a life sentence without chance of parole, told the Daily News of Los Angeles in a letter last month that he had renounced his racist views and regretted the pain he had caused.

"It's times like these when people should be sensitive and really be careful of their thoughts and actions," Levy said. "We need more peace, unity and healing in the world."

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