BEVERLY HILLS (CNS) - A 24-year-old Pennsylvania man was arrested in Hawaii today for allegedly breaking into a Beverly Hills synagogue founded by Iranian immigrants and causing significant damage to some items inside.
Anton Nathaniel Redding, of Millersville, Pennsylvania was arrested in Kona on suspicion of vandalism of religious property, commercial burglary and a hate crime allegation, according to Beverly Hills Police Department Lt. Elisabeth Albanese.
The break-in occurred about 2 a.m. Saturday at the Nessah Synagogue at 142 S. Rexford Drive, Albanese said.
“Redding was identified as a suspect on ... (Tuesday) as a result of a thorough investigation, review of surveillance footage and the processing of forensic evidence,” Albanese said. “Once Redding was identified, a warrant was obtained for his arrest, and investigators ... shifted their focus to locating Redding.”
Investigators determined Redding was in Hawaii and detectives traveled to the state and, working with Hawaiian authorities, took him into custody, where he will remain pending an extradition hearing, Albanese said.
Beverly Hills police worked on the case with federal and local law enforcement agencies, Albanese said.
“I am so pleased that the collective efforts and relentless police work on this case has resulted in the apprehension of the suspect and a criminal filing,” Beverly Hills Police Department Chief Sandra Spagnoli said. “I'd like to thank our staff, partner law enforcement agencies, and community organizations for their expeditious work and support during this difficult time.”
Investigators believed a lone suspect committed a series of minor acts of vandalism as he traversed through the Rexford/Elm alley south of Wilshire Boulevard during the early morning hours Saturday, then crossed Rexford Drive and forced entry into the synagogue, where he ransacked the interior, Albanese said.
“The suspect damaged several Jewish relics, but fortunately the synagogue's main scrolls survived unscathed,” she said. “The disruption was primarily to the synagogue's interior contents, and there is very limited structural damage.”
It did not appear that any property was stolen during the crime and there were no markings or other overt signs of anti-Semitism left at the synagogue, Albanese said.
According to its website, Nessah Synagogue was founded in 1980 by Rabbi David Shofet “and the Iranian Jews of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills,” and “upholds the traditions and customs of Iranian Jews according to Orthodox, Sephardic Halacha.”
The congregation moved to its current location in 2002 at the site of what had been a Christian Science church, which moved to a newly built building across the street.
Shofet remains the congregation's chief rabbi.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles' first elected Jewish mayor, tweeted Saturday that he was “shocked and outraged by the vandalism at Nessah Synagogue.”
In the immediate aftermath of the vandalism, the Israeli-American Civic Action Network called on local leaders, elected officials, law enforcement and members of the Persian Jewish, Israeli-American, Russian Jewish and American Jewish communities to stand together to fight what it called a rising tide of anti-Semitism.
“Enough is enough, from the East Coast to the West Coast, Jewish communities are under attack,” said Vered Nisim, California chairwoman of the network, which describes itself as a nonprofit organization “dedicated to empowering Israeli-Americans to create change for a better America, a more secure Israel and a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.”
“Just a few days ago, Jews were killed in Jersey City and now today, this vandalism. How many Jews have to die and how many synagogues have to be destroyed before serious action is taken?”
Nessah Synagogue has asked its members to fast Thursday. The congregation will conduct a “Unity Shabbat” from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch praised city police for identifying the suspect.
“I said we would catch this guy and we did,” he said. “The ... (individual) who we believe desecrated a holy place on Shabbat is now in custody thanks to the superb work of the Beverly Hills Police (Department).”
Albanese said Redding was “not currently being looked at as a suspect in” vandalism cases involving graffiti, some of it described as anti- Semitic, throughout the West Los Angeles area between Saturday and Monday, including at three Jewish schools, nor in the spray painting of graffiti and slashing of tires of vehicles in Calabasas between Monday night and Tuesday morning.