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The suspect accused of shooting 2 Jewish men in LA has been charged with hate crimes

The Los Angeles Police Department headquarters building is seen downtown Los Angeles in July 2022. Police say they arrested a suspect in the separate shootings of two Jewish men as they left morning prayer services.
Damian Dovarganes
/
AP
The Los Angeles Police Department headquarters building is seen downtown Los Angeles in July 2022. Police say they arrested a suspect in the separate shootings of two Jewish men as they left morning prayer services.

Updated February 17, 2023 at 7:37 PM ET

Federal prosecutors charged a 28-year-old man with hate crimes after they say he fired at two Jewish men as they walked home from their synagogues this week in separate, nonfatal incidents.

Jaime Tran, who was charged Friday, could face life without parole in prison.

"Over the past two days, our community experienced two horrific acts we believe were motivated by antisemitic ideology that caused him to target the Jewish community," U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. "It is important, especially in one of the most diverse areas in the world, that we celebrate our differences, and stand together to oppose acts of hate."

The shootings happened several blocks apart in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, which is home to a large Jewish community and known for its many synagogues, Jewish schools, kosher restaurants and the Holocaust-focused Museum of Tolerance. Federal prosecutors said the suspect found the neighborhood after searching a popular business-review app for a kosher market.

The Los Angeles Police Department announced late Thursday that the suspect had been taken into custody "without incident" in neighboring Riverside County after an "exhaustive search."

Police said detectives had also recovered "several items of evidence," including a rifle and handgun, and that their investigation alongside state and federal authorities is ongoing.

"There's much more to this incident that we will share at the appropriate time," tweeted LAPD Chief Michael Moore.

The victims — who have not been publicly identified — were shot as they were leaving houses of worship, according to the U.S. attorney's office. In addition to both victims being seen leaving religious services, they "were dressed in clothing that visibly identified their Jewish faith, including black jackets and head coverings."

The organization Agudath Israel of America described both victims as Orthodox Jews.

Both were taken to local hospitals and are in stable condition, a police spokesperson told CNN.

The first man was shot in the arm by a drive-by shooter, according to CBS Los Angeles. The second is a member of Beit El synagogue, which told CNN that he had suffered minor injuries after being shot "three times at point-blank range" while he walked to his car, wearing a yarmulke, after morning services.

Police say there will be an increased law enforcement presence and patrols around Jewish places of worship their surrounding neighborhoods this weekend, "in an abundance of caution."

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass acknowledged in a statement that this week's shootings have set communities further on edge, at a time when antisemitic incidents already are reaching new heights.

"It is my understanding that both the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI are investigating these incidents as hate crimes so I want to be very clear: anti-Semitism and hate crimes have no place in our city or our country," she wrote. "Those who engage in either will be caught and held fully accountable."

A community on edge looks for answers and accountability

Local faith and political leaders say they're relieved that the suspect is in custody, and are hoping to get the full picture of what happened and see him held accountable.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles said it had learned that the suspect "has a history of animus towards the Jewish community."

"As such, we are heartened to have also learned that the U.S. Attorney will take the case and file federal charges on civil rights violations," it added.

Even with the suspect in custody, local officials acknowledge that rising antisemitism remains a threat to their community.

Los Angeles saw a wave of incidents last fall, including antisemitic leafleting and a demonstration in which protesters gave Nazi salutes under a "Kanye is right" banner on a freeway overpass.

The ADL said in October that the number of hate incidents in the city was on track to surpass the previous year's record high.

And, as U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu noted, the Los Angeles community is still reeling from recent mass shootings, including the Monterey Park dance studio attack during Lunar New Year celebrations last month.

These latest shootings are concerning regardless of whether they were explicitly motivated by hate, as LA City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky tweeted:

"We have seen a rise in antisemitic attacks in recent months, and while there remain questions on the motivation of these particular shootings, we cannot ignore the pain and trauma that they have triggered in the community."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
Giulia Heyward
Giulia Heyward is a weekend reporter for Digital News, based out of New York. She previously covered education and other national news as a reporting fellow at The New York Times and as the national education reporter at Capital B News. She interned for POLITICO, where she covered criminal justice reform in Florida, and CNN, as a writer for the trends & culture team. Her work has also been published in The Atlantic, HuffPost and The New Republic.