Uneasy calm in LA Jewish neighborhood after arrest of shooting suspect who said he targeted Jews


LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The morning after Los Angeles police arrested a man suspected of shooting two Jews outside their synagogues, the biggest indicator of disruption in the neighborhood where the incidents took place was a caravan of news trucks.

Along Pico Boulevard, the thoroughfare running through the Pico-Robertson neighborhood that is home to a large and diverse Jewish community, people were heading to prayer services, shopping for groceries and picking up bagels — standard activities for a Friday morning.

Some said they might not have been doing so if the gunman behind the shootings that took place on Wednesday and Thursday mornings was still at large.

“There’s a lot of moms that walk up and down taking their kids to school,” said Taryn, whose children attend a local Jewish day school, outside the Elat Market kosher grocery store. “When they hadn’t found somebody I did take my car because I didn’t feel safe walking. It affects our lives.”

On Friday afternoon, police in Los Angeles revealed details about the alleged shooter’s identity and motivation. Jaime Tran, 28, faces hate crimes charges and was being held in the county jail on $2 million bond, according to the county’s inmate locator service.

According to charges filed by the federal prosecutors, Tran told officers that he had chosen the location of the shootings by searching for “kosher markets” on Yelp and selected the victims by their “head gear.” He had previously sent antisemitic messages to former classmates in December and cited a flier, apparently of the type routinely distributed by the white supremacist Goyim Defense League, that blamed Jews for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” United States 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.”

Taryn, who declined to share her last name because of privacy concerns, recently moved to Los Angeles from South Africa. She said she was concerned about crime generally but was disconcerted by learning about the alleged shooter’s antisemitic animus.

“Obviously it’s very scary having heard that this guy specifically targeted Jews,” she said. “It’s definitely scary. This is kind of, I guess, a reality check.”

Inside Temple Beth Am, a large Conservative synagogue in the area, some attendees at the weekday morning service said they were aware that shootings had taken place. Fewer knew that someone had been arrested.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles had released a statement late Thursday saying that it had been informed by law enforcement that a man had been arrested in connection with the shootings, which left two men with injuries that were not life-threatening. The federation also said it had been informed that the suspect has “a history of animus towards the Jewish community.”

The Los Angeles Police Department said late Thursday the suspect had been “taken into custody without incident” in nearby Riverside County, and a rifle and handgun had been recovered there.

“I’m grateful for the stellar work of our people,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said on Twitter. “There’s much more to this incident that we will share at the appropriate time.”