A man has been arrested on suspicion of a hate crime after allegedly yelling out anti-Semitic slurs and trying to hit Jewish congregants with his vehicle outside a Hancock Park synagogue over the weekend, Los Angeles Police Department officials announced Monday.
The incident occurred about 9 p.m. Nov. 23 after an event at Congregation Bais Yehuda, 360 N. La Brea Ave.
Two men, 37 and 57, were walking toward Oakwood Avenue when they saw a man in a vehicle yell out expletives "referencing their Jewish heritage," LAPD Deputy Chief Horace Frank said Monday. The men saw the driver, identified as Mohamed Mohamed Abdi, run a red light, make a U-turn and accelerate toward them. The men hid behind a traffic light pole and an electric box to avoid getting hit, Frank said.
Abdi allegedly tried to hit the men again before attempting to drive away, but he crashed into another vehicle in the area. No one was injured during the incident, police said.
At some point, the men alerted authorities, who responded to the scene and arrested Abdi. Police found a knife in Abdi's vehicle, Chief Michel Moore said.
Abdi, 32, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and faces a special enhancement of a hate crime, officials said.
Abdi is a U.S. citizen from Somalia, but had only been in the Los Angeles area for only a few days, Moore said. He lived in the Seattle area for several years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Frank told the newspaper that Abdi rented a car and drove south last week, but his reasons for doing so were unclear. Frank noted that the nature of the attack echoes recent terror incidents using rented vehicles, which was "very concerning."
Moore said that while there is no evidence that Abdi was working on a larger attack, the LAPD and FBI are looking into his background, recent travel and social media history.
"Hate in America is on the rise," Moore said. "That has to change." He said that part of that change includes making sure that victims of hate crimes speak up and report any hate speech or actions.
Last year, there were 223 reported hate crimes in the city of Los Angeles, compared to 231 reported so far this year, Frank said.
Young Israel of Hancock Park's security coordinator, Matthew Kest, told the Times that someone shouted, “The Jews won’t be around for long,” at a congregant who was biking to the synagogue earlier this month.
On Nov. 7, LAPD arrested a man accused of accosting at least three Orthodox Jewish women and pulling off their wigs in Valley Glen.
The recent rash of local anti-Semitic incidents follow a mass shooting that left 11 dead inside a Pittsburgh synagogue in late October.
"This type of hate and violence will not stand," L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz said about the Nov. 23 incident that occurred in his district. "My colleagues and I will do everything in our power to make sure that our communities are protected and secure. We will continue to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry, and we will continue to shine light on the darkness of hate."