Los Angeles, CA – Authorities are treating the attempted ramming of two men with a vehicle in front of a Los Angeles synagogue on Friday as a hate crime.
The incident began at about 9 p.m. on Nov. 23 when two men walked out of Congregation Bais Yehuda synagogue in Fairfax, KTTV reported.
The men told police that a vehicle tried to run them down, and it was driven by a man who was screaming anti-Semitic slurs.
The driver was later identified as 32-year-old Mohamed Mohamed Abdi, according to KTTV.
The men said that after he passed them, Abdi made a U-turn and came back at them again.
“The reason we knew he was coming at us is because, when he did the U-turn, he was burning rubber, so it additionally caught our attention,” one of the victims told KTTV. “He came within inches or feet from us and we both scrambled in different directions. He backed up and tried hitting me while my friend ran into the synagogue.”
Seconds later, surveillance video a few blocks away captured Abdi as he crashed his car into another car, and then tried to flee yet again.
“The car was completely disabled and he kept on trying to make it work,” the victim told KTTV.
Police arrived on the scene quickly, and Abdi was taken into custody, FOX News reported.
He was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with the special enhancement of a hate crime, according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Abdi was found to be carrying a knife when he was arrested, LAPD Deputy Chief Horace Frank said.
Fortunately, neither of the victims was injured during the fast but intense altercation.
LAPD Chief Michael Moore told reporters at a press conference on Monday that Abdi had immigrated to the United States from Somalia and become a U.S. Citizen.
Chief Moore said Abdi lived in Seattle and no one knew why he was in Los Angeles.
The chief said that thus far, there has been no evidence that showed Abdi was working with others or a terrorist group as part of a plot, but that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force was investigating.
“We are not naive, to the extent that he could have relationships or connections with other similarly like-minded individuals, and we’re mindful of that and our investigative efforts will exploit his travel, his background, his social media accounts, a full spectrum approach on this,” Chief Moore said.
The special enhancements for a hate crime may apply in this case because it appeared the victims were targeted because they were coming out of a synagogue and their attacker yelled racial epithets while attempting the crime.
“Just four weeks after the terrible attacks in Pittsburgh we see this action outside a synagogue here in Los Angeles,” Chief Moore lamented the state of the country and referenced the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting in October.
“Hate in America is on the rise,” the police chief said. “That has to change.”
He said he looked forward to an “aggressive and active prosecution of this individual.”