2 men shot outside LA synagogue - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

2 men shot outside LA synagogue

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LOS ANGELES - A gunman shot and wounded two men in the parking garage of a North Hollywood synagogue early Thursday and Jewish schools and temples alerted in case the attack wasn't isolated.

There was no immediate word on a motive, and police said the shooting may have been a random act by a lone assailant.

"We certainly recognize the location and we're sensitive to that," Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said. "But we do not know that this was a hate crime at all."

Two men in their 40s were shot in the legs near the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Orthodox synagogue in the San Fernando Valley, Moore said. The men, both members of the synagogue, had arrived in separate cars for the morning service shortly before 6:30 a.m. when the gunman shot both several times, police said.

The men were hospitalized in good condition and were expected to fully recover, police said.

Police later detained and handcuffed a man less than a mile from the synagogue. The youth, believed to be about 17 years old, matched the "very loose" description of the attacker, who was described as a black man wearing a hoodie, Moore said.

Because of the vague description, Lt. John Romero said police were not sure yet if he was the gunman. Officers cordoned off the area and continued to search for a possible suspect, Moore said.

There were no security guards in the parking garage but investigators will look at the synagogue's security videos, he said.

The FBI also responded to the scene, and police alerted nearby Jewish schools and temples and put extra patrols in place. There are several synagogues in the area.

"We are being vigilant for any follow-ups that may occur," Moore said.

Police initially said the attack was being investigated as a possible hate crime, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cautioned people not to overreact.

"Until they have concluded their investigation, none of us, none of us should presume or speculate more about this crime other than it was a random act of violence," Villaraigosa said.

LAPD First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said investigators were trying to determine whether a similar suspect might have been involved in robberies or other crimes in the area.

Shayan Yaghoubi, 13, was walking with his mother to the synagogue's adjoining school but wasn't allowed to cross the police line.

"The cops told us we can't go," he said. "I feel very bad because this is my favorite school ... I have a lot of friends over there. I hope everyone is OK. There's never been a problem with fighting."

Michael Bloom, 30, an Orthodox organizer with Hatzolah, a Jewish volunteer medical response team, grew up in the diverse neighborhood. He said there had been instances of Jews being insulted as they walked to the synagogue on the Sabbath.

"This has been going on for years. Everything from "death to Israel" to "dirty Jew,'" he said. "There are gangs in the area. It's not the safest neighborhood."

However, Sholomo Yaghobi, 18, said the neighborhood was "calm, relatively."

His brother attends the temple's school and was worried.

"I'm upset if something would have happened to my brother, who would answer to that?" he said.

Officials at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish rights group with more than 400,000 members in the United States, said the Jewish community should be vigilant until police determine a motive for the attack.

"When an attack actually takes place in the perimeter of a house of worship, it's a source of deep concern," Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told KTTV. "Look, we don't know whether this is a lone gunman, it could be drugs, who knows. But the fact of the matter is there were no words exchanged, violence was used."

Cooper noted the early morning timing of the attack.

"If it's someone who had been watching the community they would know that every weekday morning somewhere between 10 and 25 or 30 men are going to be coming to the early morning service."

The attack occurred 10 miles from Jewish community center where white supremacist Buford Furrow wounded three children, a teenager and an adult, in 1999. Furrow later killed a Filipino letter carrier on another street.

Furrow, who is serving a life sentence without chance of parole, told the Daily News of Los Angeles in a letter last month that he had renounced his racist views and regretted the pain he had caused.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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