Police intensify search for L.A. temple assailant
By Solvej Schou
LOS ANGELES — Police on Friday pressed forward with their hunt for a gunman, a day after he wounded two men in the parking garage of a Los Angeles synagogue.
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 North Hollywood as they arrived for Thursday's morning service.
Both were hospitalized in good condition following the attack, which police say took place in a stairwell leading up to the synagogue sanctuary. Frightened worshippers heard gunshots and screams before the bleeding victims stumbled in.
The gunman fled on foot and police briefly held a teenager who matched a vague description of the attacker. But they released the 17-year-old a short time later and continued their search for the assailant.
A motive for the attack remained unclear and city leaders moved to calm fears the attack was part of any organized anti-Semitic violence. Still, police beefed up patrols of Jewish communities as part of a citywide alert before saying the attack appeared to be isolated.
The victims, who were hospitalized in good condition, told police the attacker did not speak or take anything from them.
Initial security camera footage from the synagogue shows the suspect but not the shooting, and the quality is too poor for investigators to identify the man, Cmdr. Jorge Villegas said, but detectives later found more security cameras at the synagogue and were reviewing those tapes.
Police said a slew of possible motives was being considered, including attempted robbery or a personal business dispute.
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.
Michael Bloom, 30, an Orthodox organizer with Hatzolah, a Jewish volunteer medical response team, grew up in the diverse neighborhood. He 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 neighborhood."