Just one month after a man shouted “All Jews must die!” and murdered eleven people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, a man on the other side of the country attempted to run over two Jewish men leaving a synagogue in Los Angeles, California.
32-year-old Mohamed Mohamed Abdi (who has also been called Mohamed Abdi Mohamed in some reports) lives in Seattle but drove down to Los Angeles just a few days prior to attempting the attack, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore.
According to police, Mohamed yelled anti-Semitic slurs at two men, ages 37 and 57, as they were leaving a Los Angelees synagogue around 9pm on Friday night.
Mohamed then allegedly ran a red light, made a U-turn, and drove directly at the men, who were able to move out of the way and find safety, so he made another U-turn and drove at the men again but crashed into another car.
The attack was at least partially caught on security cameras, according to KCAL/CBSLA.
Chief Moore and Deputy Chief Horace Frank told reporters on Monday that the men’s watchfulness helped to save their lives.
“The victims, obviously, were caught off guard by [the anti-Semitic slurs], and they maintained attention on the individual as they crossed the street,” Frank said. “At some point, they saw the individual run a red light and make a U-turn, accelerate the vehicle at a high rate of speed, deliberately driving that vehicle towards them.”
“That monitoring, that vigilance, is what saved their lives,” Moore said.
“We both scrambled in different directions, so he slammed on his brakes and missed us, thank God,” one victim told KCAL/CBSLA. “He clearly was going at us and it was even more clear on round two,” said the victim.
Luckily, the victims were unharmed.
Mohamed was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon (his vehicle) and pleaded not guilty yesterday.
According to police, he had a knife in the car, although they do not believe he possessed a firearm, and he is believed to have been acting alone. According to the LA Times, Mohamed suffers from schizophrenia and had been a patient at mental health facilities at least twice.
Mohamed’s relatives released a statement, saying, “He was recently seeking treatment in King County [in Washington] through a program designed to provide behavioral health services to individuals with the most severe level of mental health conditions. However, he did not receive the intensive medical care he needed.”
The statement also said, “Mohamed’s mental illness renders him unpredictable and unstable; however, he has never expressed particular hatred toward Jews, or any other group of people or minority.”
Mohamed was born in Somalia, though the LA Times reported that he “entered the country as a refugee in the early 1990s with his family as they fled from a civil war in Somalia.” He later became an American citizen.
Frank told reporters that 231 hate crimes have been reported in Los Angeles year-to-date, compared to 223 during the same period last year.
At the beginning of November, the LAPD arrested a man for ripping the coverings off the heads of three Orthodox Jewish women, whose ages were 36, 58, and 80.
“This is something for a Jewish woman which is so personal. This wig or this hair covering is something to them which is so important,” Rabbi Nachman Abend told KCAL/CBSLA. “To rip that off somebody’s head is crossing all lines and I’m really glad the LAPD considered this a hate crime.”
After Mohamed’s attack, Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz declared, “This type of hate and violence will not stand. My colleagues and I will do everything in our power to make sure that our communities are protected and secure. We will continue to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry, and we will continue to shine light on the darkness of hate.”
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.