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Suspect in shootings of 2 Jewish men in L.A. neighborhood charged with hate crimes

The two victims in the separate shootings survived. Prosecutors alleged the 28-year-old suspect set out to find Jewish victims.

A suspect in the shootings of two Jewish men in Los Angeles has been charged with federal hate crime acts, authorities said Friday.

An affidavit filed Friday in federal court in support of the charges alleges the suspect, Jaime Tran, 28, shot the two people in separate attacks Wednesday and Thursday as they left religious services in the city’s Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

The victims survived.

Tran was arrested Thursday in Cathedral City, about 130 miles east of Pico-Robertson, and made an initial appearance in federal court Friday.

He has been charged with two counts of committing hate crimes, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. The complaint alleges Tran targeted the two victims because they were Jewish or he believed them to be Jewish.

The affidavit said the attacks took place as both victims were leaving separate synagogues one block apart. Both were wearing black jackets and head coverings, according to the document.

The victims have not been identified. Both men were hospitalized and their conditions were not immediately available Friday.

The affidavit said the suspect confessed following his arrest and asked if the victims were dead.

The man said he went to Pico-Robertson, a neighborhood just south of Beverly Hills, after using an app to find a kosher market, the affidavit alleged.

Pico-Robertson and adjacent Beverly Hills are well-known for a Jewish community that draws expatriates from around the world.

Police said the man told officers he knew the people he shot were Jewish because of what they were wearing, according to the affidavit.

Friday’s court filing alleged Tran had a history of making antisemitic comments and threats, citing recent messages he’d sent to former classmates.

Jailed without bond

The Los Angeles Police Department said Thursday night the suspect had been apprehended following an “exhaustive search.”

The first shooting unfolded just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, authorities said, when the victim was shot in the lower back. The second victim was shot in the bicep around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, they said.

After the second shooting, an LAPD officer noticed a man possibly fitting the description of the shooter driving in Pico-Robertson, according to the affidavit.

The officer took a photo, apparently as the vehicle passed, and continued on to the crime scene, the document states. After reviewing security video, the officer determined the driver was the suspect, it states.

Tran was arrested Thursday in Cathedral City, near Palm Springs, after local officers responded to a 5:45 p.m. report of a man with a gun. Authorities believe the suspect fired a round, as noted by the person who called for help, before Cathedral City officers arrived, according to the affidavit.

Officers found the suspect standing next to a vehicle and took him into custody. The vehicle was impounded and two firearms inside — an “AK-style” semi-automatic rifle and a .380-caliber handgun “consistent with the firearm believed to have been used in the shootings” — were seized, according to the affidavit.

Tran told officers he had been living out of the car for a year or more, and that he had obtained the weapons from a stranger in Arizona, according to the court filing.

A judge ordered Tran to be jailed without bond Friday. He is scheduled to be arraigned next month.

Because the complaint contained allegations that he tried to murder the two victims, Tran could face up to life in federal prison without parole, if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

It wasn't immediately clear if he has retained counsel. The federal public defender's office in Los Angeles did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Suspect had been out on bail

Tran was out on bail and awaiting trial in connection with an incident from last year when he was arrested Thursday, according to court records and law enforcement officials.

He was arrested in July and accused of carrying a loaded gun at California State University, Long Beach, according to records and officials.

He was charged with possessing a firearm on school grounds, according to the district attorney.

“At the time of that filing, he had no previous criminal record and we were not made aware of any allegations of threats against the Jewish community,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement Friday.

Increased patrols

Police said there will be an increased police presence and patrols around Jewish communities and places of worship through the weekend. 

In a statement, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles condemned the shooting, expressed gratitude for the arrest, and said it was encouraged by federal prosecution of the suspect.

The arrest was a "sigh of relief" for Los Angeles' Jewish community, said Jeffrey Abrams, Los Angeles regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the shootings “absolutely unacceptable.” 

“I want to be very clear: anti-Semitism and hate crimes have no place in our city or our country," she said in a statement. "Those who engage in either will be caught and held fully accountable."