Prosecutors say suspect looked up kosher markets in LA to target Jewish people for shootings

The suspect told agents he searched kosher markets on Yelp and targeted victims based on "head gear," according to the complaint.

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Saturday, February 18, 2023
Federal hate crime charges filed against suspect in LA shootings
Authorities say Jamie Tran, 28, looked up kosher markets on Yelp to find targets for shootings in the Pico-Robertson district of Los Angeles.

PICO-ROBERTSON, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A 28-year-old man suspected of shooting two Jewish men after they left synagogues in the Pico-Robertson district less than 24 hours apart was charged Friday with two federal hate crime counts.

Jaime Tran, a 28-year-old who previously lived in Riverside, was charged with committing a hate crime by interference with federally protected activities and use of a firearm in a felony, according to a criminal complaint.

He was "motived by antisemitism,'' according to U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada, who added "Hate crimes have no place in our community.''

"Over the past two days, our community experienced two horrific acts we believe were motivated by antisemitic ideology that caused him to target the Jewish community," said Estrada. "It is important, especially in one of the most diverse areas in the world, that we celebrate our differences, and stand together to oppose acts of hate."

If convicted of both charges, Tran would face up to life in federal prison, Estrada said.

Tran made an initial appearance in federal court Thursday afternoon with his public defender and was ordered held without bond. Another preliminary hearing is set for March 3 and his arraignment is scheduled for March 9 at the Roybal federal building in downtown Los Angeles.

According to a court affidavit, he admitted to investigators that he shot the two victims, saying he looked up "kosher markets'' on Yelp and "decided to shoot someone in the area of the market'' on Thursday.

He also admitted to the previous shooting on Wednesday, according to the affidavit.

Federal criminal charges have been filed against a man suspected of shooting two Jewish men earlier this week after they left synagogues in the Pico-Robertson area.

Investigators also allege he has a history of antisemitism, sending threatening messages and voicemails to a Jewish classmate at a dental school, and sending more antisemitic messages to other classmates.

Tran was arrested Thursday evening in Riverside County and evidence was seized that included a rifle and handgun.

An LAPD officer responding to Thursday's shooting noticed a man fitting the suspect's description driving away from the area and snapped a photo of his license plate.

While reviewing surveillance footage from the crime scene, the officer spotted a vehicle that matched the photo. License plate reader records placed Tran's car in the area of the two shootings at the time they occurred.

Although police initially said there was no evidence to confirm the shootings were motivated by hate, they later said the circumstances led them to pursue the investigation as a hate crime.

The two men were shot on consecutive days in similar circumstances - while leaving synagogues on Pico Boulevard. The attacks left the Jewish community on edge.

Two Jewish men were shot while leaving different synagogues in the Pico-Robertson section of Los Angeles within two days and police now say they believe the incidents were related.

One shooting happened Wednesday morning in the 1400 block of Shenandoah Street. A Jewish man in his 40s wearing a yarmulke was walking to his car when someone shot him and then drove away, police say. The man was wounded in the lower back and is expected to survive.

The other happened Thursday morning a block away at the intersection of Pickford and Bedford streets. A Jewish man in his 70s was shot at by a suspect from inside a vehicle. He was injured in the upper arm and is expected to survive.

In both cases, the men had left synagogues on Pico Boulevard before they were shot.

"They didn't stop them to get their wallet, there was no struggle, the guy just came out of the bushes, shot my friend and ran away," said resident Vivian Eisenstadt. "What other reasoning could you have?"

WATCH: Residents fear hate crimes following shootings of 2 Jewish men

"There's no way this is a coincidence," said one resident Shiva Mehrannia.

Mayor Karen Bass said Thursday that "antisemitism and hate crimes have no place in our city or our country''

"Those who engage in either will be caught and held fully accountable,'' Bass said. "At a time of increased antisemitism, these acts have understandably set communities on edge. Just last December, I stood blocks away from where these incidents occurred as we celebrated the first night of Hanukkah together. Now, my pledge to the Pico-Robertson community and to the city of Los Angeles as a whole, is that we will fight this hatred vigorously and work every day to defeat it.''

According to the complaint, Tran -- a former dental student -- has a history of harassing people he suspected of being Jewish.

In December 2022, Tran allegedly emailed dozens of his former classmates, describing Jewish people as "primitive'' and encouraging his classmates to blame any "inconvenience'' or lost revenue from the COVID-19 lockdowns on the "Iranian Jew,'' according to the complaint.

Between August and November of 2022, Tran allegedly repeatedly texted a former classmate antisemitic and threatening messages, the complaint stated.

Tran was previously arrested last year in Long Beach on felony charges of bringing a gun on school grounds. He made bail and was due in court later this month. L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said Tran had no previous criminal record, and the office was not aware of any allegations of threats against the Jewish community.

The shootings have residents worried for their own safety.

"I usually take walks on Shabbat on Saturdays," said Yael Mehrannia. "It's the whole community - we walk to synagogue, we walk to our friends' houses. This week I'm telling my family I think we should stay home."

The LAPD says it is contact with local religious and community leaders and is providing a more visible police presence in the area. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said it is also providing more patrols around synagogues and Jewish centers.

Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to call LAPD at 1-877-LAPD-24-7 or provide anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.