U.S.: The attempted car ramming of two Jewish men outside a Los Angeles synagogue Friday 23rd Nov — allegedly by a Somali immigrant — is being treated as a potential hate crime as federal officials work to establish a motive in the attack.
Mohamed Mohamed Abdi, 32, was arrested outside Congregation Bais Yehuda after the incident, which took place around 9 p.m. on Friday, the Los Angeles Police Department said Monday.
Two men reported they saw a vehicle being driven by a man, identified as Abdi, who yelled out anti-Semitic expletives “referencing their Jewish heritage” before running a red light, making a U-Turn and accelerating towards them “really, really fast.”
“The reason we knew he was coming at us is because, when he did the U-turn, he was burning rubber, so it additionally caught our attention,” one of the victims, who wished not to be identified, told FOX11. “He came within inches or feet from us and we both scrambled in different directions. He backed up and tried hitting me while my friend ran into the synagogue.”
Surveillance video released by police shows the car, allegedly being driven by Abdi, making the sharp U-turn before speeding at the two men. In another video, the car can be seen crashing into another vehicle two blocks away.
The victim told FOX11 he then saw Abdi try to escape.
“The car was completely disabled and he kept on trying to make it work,” the man told FOX11.
No one was injured during the incident, police said. The 32-year-old was taken into custody shortly after and charged with assault with a deadly weapon — but also faces a special enhancement of a hate crime, according to LAPD.
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HATE IN #LOSANGELES – CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Several Orthodox #Jews were walking on Le Brea Blvd and Oakwood – in front of the Bais Yehuda Shul, when a vehicle drove past screaming anti-Semitic slurs at them. (2nd video) One of the victims told YWN the vehicle made an abrupt U-Turn (2nd & 3rd videos) and began hurling anti-semitic slurs before attempting to run over the group of identifiable Orthodox Jews. The vehicle sped off and was involved in a car accident at the intersection of Highland and Oakwood. (1st video) . The victim tell YWN that there was a Koran on the windshield, and the driver was of Middle-Eastern descent. Additionally, after the LAPD arrived at the scene of the crash, the man continued on his anti-Semitic rant.
Abdi is a U.S. citizen from Somalia, but had only driven to the Los Angeles area a few days ago, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at a Monday news conference. The 32-year-old Abdi had emigrated to the Seattle area several years ago, and recently rented a car to drive to Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported. It was not yet known if he knew anyone in the city or why he made the trip.
There was no evidence Abdi acted with others as part of a plot, but that the department was working with the FBI and others in the Joint Terrorism Task force to investigate the incident further, Moore said.
“We are not naive, to the extent that he could have relationships or connections with other similarly like-minded individuals, and we’re mindful of that and our investigative efforts will exploit his travel, his background, his social media accounts, a full spectrum approach on this,” Moore said.
Abdi was also found carrying a knife, which was “very concerning,” according to LAPD Deputy Chief Horace Frank.
Moore said recent incidents, such as the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last month that killed 11, show the attempted attack Friday could be part of a growing problem, Moore said.
“Hate in America is on the rise,” he added. “That has to change.”
This is the second high profile anti-semitic incident involving a Muslim in United States in two months. Earlier, in October, a livery driver beat a 62-year-old yarmulke-wearing Jewish man as he walked to synagogue in Brooklyn. Physically and emotionally scarred, Lipa Schwartz described the frightening moment he was attacked in broad daylight in the middle of the street in Borough Park.
“All of a sudden, ‘boom,'” he said. “I tried to protect myself, run away. I fell. He come again on me.”
Schwartz was on his way to service, which he attends every day, when he said the driver jumped out of his cab and started attacking him. The savage beating happened on 13th Avenue by 46th Street. The victim’s holy items were scattered on the ground.
Another member of the Hasidic community tried to help, and the attacker then chased after him.
An arrest was made quickly on the scene. A 37-year-old Muslim man Farrukh Afzal, from Staten Island, drove for a car service in Brooklyn and has been arrested numerous times.
— New York City Alerts (@NYCityAlerts) October 14, 2018
“I went to him when he was handcuffed, ‘what did I do to you that you tried to murder me? Tell me,'” Schwartz said. “He didn’t answer back.”
Schwartz says Afzal yelled ‘Allah’ during the assault.
Schwartz said he has no idea why the man attacked him, but he said he thinks it was because he is Jewish. Afzal was arraigned on charges of attempted assault in the second degree, assault in the third degree, menacing and harassment. There is no hate crime component in these charges.
The car service where he worked said that Afzal has been fired.