Suspect charged with hate crimes in shooting of Jewish men in LA

US federal prosecutors announced charges against Jaime Tran, 28, for allegedly firing on two Jewish men in California.

Jeffrey Abrams, Regional Director of Anti-Defamation League, speaks at a podium, with LA Mayor Karen Bass to the right
Jeffrey Abrams, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Los Angeles, speaks at a news conference as hate crime charges are announced against the suspect in the shooting of two Jewish men [Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo]

A suspect in the United States who allegedly shot and wounded two Jewish men as they left synagogues in Los Angeles has been charged with federal hate crimes.

Jaime Tran, 28, is accused of carrying out the attacks on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, US Attorney Martin Estrada said at a news conference on Friday.

“For the past two days, our community has experienced two horrific acts,” Estrada said. “An individual motivated by anti-Semitism, hatred for people in the Jewish community, committed two tremendously horrible acts targeting individuals because of their Jewish faith.”

Both victims wore clothing that identified their faith, including black coats and head coverings, Estrada said.

Tran, arrested on Thursday evening, told law enforcement he had looked online for a “kosher market” and decided to shoot someone nearby, according to an affidavit filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He also admitted to shooting someone the previous day, the affidavit said.

Tran was scheduled to make an initial appearance at federal court on Friday afternoon but was not expected to enter a plea, according to the US attorney’s office.

Tran’s public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The first victim was shot at close range in the lower back, Estrada said. The second victim was shot in the upper arm, also at close range. In both cases, the shots were fired from a car.

Tran said he selected the victims because of what they wore on their heads, the FBI affidavit said.

Tran has a “history of anti-Semitic and threatening conduct”, the affidavit said, citing a review of emails, text messages and unspecified reports.

In 2022, he emailed former classmates using insulting language about Jewish people and threatened a Jewish former classmate, repeatedly sending them messages like “Someone is going to kill you, Jew” and “I want you dead, Jew”, according to the affidavit.

“We were lucky that we’re not going to funerals. That’s just the reality,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper from the Simon Wiesenthal Center said during Friday’s news conference. “Tomorrow we go to our services with our children.”

Tran was arrested about 161 km (100 miles) east of Los Angeles in the Riverside County community of Cathedral City near Palm Springs.

According to the affidavit, Los Angeles police officers investigating the second shooting used video from a camera at an intersection to identify an older model grey Honda vehicle that appeared to be involved.

An officer who responded to assist saw and photographed a man driving a dark grey Honda Civic. The image captured the licence plate, which was registered to Tran, whose driver’s licence photo was consistent with witness descriptions of the attacker, the affidavit said.

Licence plate readers showed the Honda was in the area of the two shootings at the times they occurred. Police identified a mobile phone number associated with Tran, while location data showed it was in the Palm Springs area Thursday afternoon.

At about 5:45pm (1:45 GMT), Cathedral City police responded to a call from someone who heard the sound of a gunshot and saw a man with a gun near a Honda Civic.

Officers found Tran standing next to the car and they could see an “AK-style rifle” and a .380-caliber handgun in plain view on the driver’s seat, the affidavit said. The officers also found a spent shell casing.

The US attorney said Tran had been a resident of the city of Riverside.

In the FBI interview, Tran said he was homeless and had been living out of the car for 12 to 14 months, and that he obtained the firearms from someone he did not know in Arizona, the affidavit said.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said fighting hate crimes was a priority of her administration’s public safety agenda.

“We can rest hopefully a little bit easier,” she said during Friday’s news conference. “Still, anti-Semitism and terror are tragically on the rise across our city and across our nation.”

Source: The Associated Press