(LOS ANGELES) — Police are investigating after two Jewish men were reportedly shot after leaving religious services in Los Angeles within 24 hours.
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement Thursday night that it believes the suspect, who is now in custody, “is responsible for the two shootings in West Los Angeles” on Wednesday and Thursday.
“The facts of the case led to this crime being investigated as a hate crime,” the LAPD said, also adding: “In an abundance of caution, there will continue to be an increased police presence and patrols around Jewish places of worship and surrounding neighborhoods through the weekend.”
According to law enforcement sources, the suspect allegedly has a history of animus toward the Jewish community.
In a statement, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles said, in part: “We have also learned that the suspect has a history of animus towards the Jewish community and these incidents will be treated as hate crimes. As such, we are encouraged to also have learned that the U.S. Attorney will take the case and file federal charges on civil rights violations.”
The first shooting occurred shortly before 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday, when a man in his 40s was shot while getting into his vehicle, police said. The suspect fired at the victim while driving by, striking him, then took off, police said.
The second shooting occurred Thursday around 8:30 a.m. a couple of blocks from the first incident, when a suspect fired upon a victim at an intersection from a vehicle, police said.
Police described the suspected shooter as an Asian man with a mustache and goatee driving a possible white compact vehicle.
The victims are in stable condition, police said.
Both incidents occurred in LA’s Pico-Robertson area, which is home to many synagogues and religious centers. The victims were leaving houses of worship, according to Jeffery Abrams, regional director for Anti-Defamation League Los Angeles.
The LAPD said it is re-allocating resources “to provide a highly visible and preventative presence in the area.”
“The Los Angeles Police Department is aware of the concern these crimes have raised in the surrounding community,” the LAPD said in a statement Thursday evening. “We have been in close contact with religious leaders as well as individual and organizational community stakeholders.”
The FBI is assisting the LAPD in the case to determine if it was a hate crime.
LA Mayor Karen Bass said her office is monitoring the incidents.
“These attacks against members of our Jewish community are unacceptable,” she said on Twitter.
LA City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, who represents the district where both shootings occurred, said that the LAPD will provide “heightened deployment around all Jewish institutions citywide” in the wake of the attacks.
“These two shootings are deeply concerning,” Yaroslavsky said on Twitter. “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.”
Lili Bosse, the mayor of nearby Beverly Hills, also confirmed that police were “placing extra security around our houses of worship in our city.”
The victims were Orthodox Jews leaving their synagogues following morning prayers, according to Agudath Israel of America, an organization representing Haredi Orthodox Jews.
“While we do not yet know who the shooter(s) are, if the cases are related, or what the motivations may have been, Agudath Israel feels that these incidents should be investigated as hate crimes until we know otherwise,” the organization said in a statement earlier Thursday, before police said they believe the cases may be linked. “In the meantime we ask all Los Angeles institutions to be especially vigilant in the days ahead.”
The investigation into both shootings is ongoing, and detectives are looking for surveillance footage and other evidence, police said.
“The Department’s specialized Major Crimes Division has assumed responsibility and is currently interviewing witnesses and pursuing all leads,” LAPD said.
Abrams said the LAPD is working with the Anti-Defamation League amid the investigation into the incidents.
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