The Los Angeles Police Department put Jewish institutions on alert on Thursday, after a gunman shot and wounded two men in the parking garage of a San Fernando Valley synagogue earlier in the day.
Two men in their 40s were shot in the legs near the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Orthodox synagogue in North Hollywood, Deputy Police Chief Michel 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 approached one and, without speaking, shot him and the other man, Moore said. The men were hospitalized in good condition.
But the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles said the gunman had had an argument with the men in the parking lot before shooting them.
The Los Angeles based Jewish Journal said the two had been named as the victims as Maor Ben-Nissan, 37, and Allen Lasry.
Police later detained and handcuffed a man not far 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.
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.
There was no immediate word on a motive
"We have to assume, because it was a synagogue, it was a service [and] that there was no other apparent motive, we're looking at it as a hate crime," Lt. John Romero 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.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, meanwhile, 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."
The attack occurred 16 kilometers 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.
In June, an elderly white supremacist shot and killed a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Also, in 2002 an Egyptian shot six Israelis at Los Angeles International Airport, at the Israeli airline El Al's ticket counter, before he was shot and killed by an El Al security guard. Two of the victims died in the attack.
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