LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Mayor Karen Bass, other elected officials and Jewish leaders across Los Angeles County attended a town hall Monday evening in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood that drew over 100 people to address antisemitic violence, following the shootings of two Jewish men last week after they left services at synagogues in the area.
A suspect was arrested Thursday and charged with committing hate crime acts in connection with the shootings. But officials on Monday spoke at the town hall -- held at the YULA High School gym -- about a sense of unease that remains in the neighborhood and the city given a rise in antisemitism.
Bass called for more cameras and license plate readers, and for the Los Angeles Police Department to increase patrols.
"Antisemitism has no place in Los Angeles, and I'm grateful to see my fellow elected officials and law enforcement leaders here today locking arms with Jewish leaders against hateful acts in our community," Bass said.
Bass said it was important as hateful messages spread via flyers and freeway banners that "we act aggressively and immediately at the first sign of anything."
"First we had one shooting, and then a second, and we have no way of knowing if it's going to stop," Bass said.
Some of the officials who joined Bass on Monday included City Council President Paul Krekorian, Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Assemblymembers Isaac Bryan and Jesse Gabriel, County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath and City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto. Police Chief Michel Moore and Sheriff Robert Luna were also in attendance.
Yaroslavsky said she plans to introduce a motion Tuesday calling for more funding for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles' Community Security Initiative, which provides security and support services to local Jewish institutions.
"As a people, we know always have to be vigilant, but the unease we feel in our city -- in Los Angeles, in 2023 for crying out loud -- is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable," Yaroslavsky said.
The federal complaint against the suspect alleges that 28-year-old Jamie Tran targeted the two victims because they were Jewish or he believed them to be Jewish. Because the complaint contains allegations that Tran attempted to murder the two victims, the maximum possible penalty for each of the two hate crimes is life without parole in federal prison.
In a Mirandized, recorded interview, Tran acknowledged having intentionally shot the two victims, according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint and arrest warrant.
Tran allegedly told agents that he searched for a "kosher" market on the social media application Yelp. After locating a kosher market, Tran drove to the market and selected his victims because of their "head gear," he said, according to the affidavit.
The first shooting occurred around 9:55 a.m. Wednesday in the 1400 block of Shenandoah Street, near Pico Boulevard, between Robertson and La Cienega boulevards. A man in his 40s was shot in the lower back while walking to his vehicle.
The second shooting occurred at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the 1600 block of South Bedford Street, two blocks south of Pico Boulevard and one block east of Shenandoah Street. The man was shot in the arm.
Both victims survived.
Moore said there is no current indication of any copycat threat related to the shootings, but that "we recognize the potential could be there." The police chief urged people to call out hate speech online and said education was key to preventing hateful acts. He told the crowd to not allow for "those few voices (to) outspeak the audience of this room tonight."
"You're many, many hundredsfold higher in authority and right and power to change our society because of your beliefs and the things that you do in your own home," Moore said.
When Bass spoke about the need to increase the number of LAPD officers, she also wondered out loud about the number of Jewish officers in the department.
Moore responded: "Not enough."
"You heard it from the chief: Not enough," Bass said.
In response to a question about potential alternatives to increasing law enforcement because that may create more anxiety in the community, Bass pointed to her recent hires of deputy mayors of public safety and community safety.
She said her administration would poll all the neighborhoods in the city to get a sense of "what do Angelenos need to feel safe?"
"Frankly, neighborhoods are as diverse as our city," Bass said. "People have a lot of different ideas about what they want in order to feel safe. I feel that's the best way to have an overall strategy for Los Angeles."
Feldstein-Soto said her office is making addressing hate crimes a priority, adding that the point of a hate crime is "much more than to target an individual" but to "terrorize a community."
"And that is why tonight is so incredibly important ... for us to be able to stand up and say: `We will not be afraid. We will come together, and we will come together in a Jewish school to oppose this attempt to separate, to oppose this attempt to terrorize,"' she said.
Yaroslavsky and Gabriel both spoke about the stress they feel when walking their children to school, with security guards, locked gates and metal detectors.
"It's an incredible feeling to think about the fact that (I) have to take my two pre-schoolers and walk them through a metal detector when they're going to school," said Gabriel, chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.
That feeling was not something that Gabriel said he faced when growing up.
"The world has changed in very powerful ways, and we are all feeling that anxiety," Gabriel said.