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Motive unknown in synagogue shooting

October 29, 2009 12:56:51 AM PDT
The search continued Friday for the gunman behind a double shooting at a North Hollywood synagogue.After Thursday's shooting incident, worshippers returned for early morning services.

The only thing different Friday is the police presence at the synagogue's school with LAPD officers at the front entrance.

Rabbi Amram Gabay said everything is slowly going back to normal.

"The rabbi made sure that everything goes back to normal. Even yesterday, 10 minutes after the shooting, he made sure that everybody (got) back to normal, start praying," said worshipper Mike Bacher.

Police said a gunman wearing a hooded sweatshirt opened fire in an underground parking garage at Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Congregation synagogue at 6:18 a.m. Thursday and shot 38-year-old Maor Ben-Nissan and 53-year-old Allan Lasry in the legs. Both shooting victims are in good condition, and according to Rabbi Amram Gabay, one of the victims has been released from the hospital.

"I was really shocked when I heard because I thought, who would bring violence to such a place of worship?" said Lucas Sisro, a member of the synagogue.

The shooting was in a stairwell leading up to the sanctuary of the synagogue. According to the victims, the gunman did not speak or take anything from them before fleeing.

More than an hour after the shooting, a 17-year-old who matched a rough description of the suspect was taken into custody. After questioning the teen, police released him.

Authorities increased patrols in the Jewish communities, but city leaders said there was no evidence that the attack was part of any organized anti-Semitic violence.

"I believe it's not a hate crime, because you see, in Los Angeles, in America, we have black, Japanese, we have Mexican, we have Jews, we have all the religions, so we are supposed to be friendly, to care about each other, respect each other," Gabay said.

Police suspect the shooting may have stemmed from a personal business dispute.

Bullet holes in the parking garage suggest the shooter was intentionally aiming low, perhaps to intimidate the first victim. Police think the second victim was a passerby caught by a stray bullet.

Worshippers at the synagogue have strong opinions regarding the incident.

"It was on purpose that they shot them in the legs. They didn't want to kill them. It was just a message," said worshipper Henry Rbibo.

"If they wanted them killed, they could have been killed very easily, in the chest," said another worshipper Dory Frank.

"But the men in the hospital, if they're still in the hospital, should get the idea: Take care of your business and don't bring it to the community," emphasized Frank.

The shooting interrupted plans for a Bar Mitzvah for 13-year-old Alejandro Sisro. The teen was supposed to have his ceremony at the synagogue Thursday morning, but it was postponed to later that night.

"The cops wouldn't tell us details. They just told us we couldn't be there," Sisro said.

Investigators say federal authorities are enhancing surveillance video, hoping it leads to the gunman. They are also planning to prepare a composite sketch within the next few days.

Anyone with information about the shooting is urged to call the LAPD at (877) LAPD-24-7.


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