Gunman wounds two at Hollywood synagogue
Published 30/10/2009 | 05:09
Police have launched a manhunt for a gunman who blasted two men in a synagogue car park.
Terrified worshippers at the North Hollywood synagogue heard gunshots and screams before the bleeding victims stumbled in during morning services yesterday.
Police initially feared the attack was a hate crime and briefly detained a black teenager who matched a vague description of the attacker.
But the youth was released a short time later and police continued their hunt for the assailant.
Mori Ben-Nissan, 38, and Allen Lasry, 53, were shot in the legs in the parking garage underneath the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Orthodox synagogue in the San Fernando Valley.
They had arrived in separate cars for the morning service shortly before 6.30am and were in a stairwell leading up to the synagogue when a gunman shot them several times before fleeing on foot.
Police immediately stepped up patrols of Jewish communities as part of a city-wide alert before saying the attack appeared to be isolated.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other officials moved to calm fears that the attack was part of organised anti-Semitic violence.
"We certainly recognise 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."
The victims told police the attacker did not speak or take anything from them.
One worshipper, Yehuda Oz, said he and about 14 others were praying in the temple when they heard four gunshots and screams from the parking area. Two men stumbled into the temple and people rushed to stop their bleeding.
The attack happened 10 miles from a Jewish community centre 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, and is serving a life sentence.
The synagogue is in an area of long boulevards with commercial districts, tree-studded blocks of post-war stucco homes and apartment complexes on the north side of the Hollywood Hills. It has the second-largest concentration of Jews in the city.
The Sephardic synagogue attracts primarily Jews from Morocco, Yemen, Israel and some Persians.
Michael Bloom, 30, an Orthodox organiser with Hatzolah, a Jewish volunteer medical response team, and who grew up in the neighbourhood, said there had been instances of Jews being insulted as they walked to the synagogue on the Sabbath.
"This has been going on for years. Everything from 'death to Israel' to 'dirty Jew'," he said.
"There are gangs in the area. It's not the safest neighbourhood."