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Police hunt suspect in blast outside California synagogue, say device deliberately constructed

  • Ron-Hirsh

    Ron Hirsh

  • santa-monica-explosion-synagogue

    Firefighters examine a device from the roof of a home next to the Chabad House Lubavitch in Santa Monica, Calif., on Thursda. An early morning explosion sent the object into the air, lodging it in the roof. Concern that it was a bomb due to its proximity to the Chabad House Lubavitch caused authorities to evacuate about 100 people in the surrounding area.



Ron Hirsh


LOS ANGELES — Police were hunting a suspect Saturday in a blast outside a California synagogue and community center that was initially believed to be an industrial accident. Area Jewish organizations were urged to be extra vigilant.

Ron Hirsch, 60, a transient, was linked to items found in and around a hunk of concrete and large pipe that flew some 25 feet into the air after Thursday's explosion at Chabad House Lubavitch, Santa Monica police Sgt. Jay Trisler said in a statement Friday.

"The device appeared to have been deliberately constructed," Sergeant Trisler said. "Based on his suspected involvement in this incident, Hirsch is considered extremely dangerous," Sergeant Trisler said.

Mr. Hirsch, who is known to spend time at synagogues and Jewish community centers seeking charity, is wanted on state charges of possession of a destructive device and unrelated local charges, Sergeant Trisler said.

Authorities said they knew of no motive behind the explosion, and Jewish groups said they did not believe anti-Semitism was necessarily behind it.

Sergeant Trisler said officers had stepped up patrols Saturday at synagogues and other houses of worship in Santa Monica. In neighboring West Los Angeles, police assigned a unit to monitor synagogues Saturday, City News Service reported.

On Friday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League issued a security alert to synagogues and other Jewish organizations in the Los Angeles area. The development was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Authorities initially believed a worker was trying to remove the pipe from concrete when a chemical mixture created pressure and launched the 4-foot-long pipe and concrete plug into the air.

The explosion shattered windows, punched a hole in the synagogue, and sent the pipe ricocheting into a neighboring house where a young boy was sleeping. There were no injuries.

About 20 people had been attending a Passover service in the synagogue, and they and about 80 others from surrounding houses were evacuated for more than five hours.

The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have joined local agencies in the investigation.

"We have no evidence of any kind of threat to any Jewish institution or evidence that this was a hate crime," said Amanda Susskind, regional director of the ADL's Los Angeles region.

Ms. Susskind said the alert was "not intended to create undue alarm" but rather to keep people on the lookout for a man who seems to be disturbed.

The phone at the synagogue rang unanswered.

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