On Thursday morning, at just after six o’clock, a lone gunman shot and wounded two men in the underground parking area of the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic synagogue, in the North Hollywood area of Los Angeles. Given the setting and the scant details immediately available, it is unsurprising that the Los Angeles Police Department responded on the assumption that the crime may have been an act of terrorism. Los Angeles has a large Jewish population, and a visitor to any synagogue or other Jewish facility in the city is bound to notice the signs of vigilance against the threat that ever lurks outside its doors.
Yesterday, Phyllis Chessler chronicled only a sampling of the world’s more infamous anti-Semitic attacks of the last several years, but she neglected to mention an incident that occurred ten years ago just a few miles from the scene of Thursday’s shooting. On August 10, 1999, white supremacist Buford Furrow opened fire at the North Valley Jewish Community Center’s child care facility, wounding four children and an adult. (And could you invent a better name for a white supremacist than Buford Furrow?) He then shot and killed a Filipino-American letter carrier in a nearby neighborhood before fleeing to Las Vegas where he surrendered to the FBI. He escaped execution by pleading guilty to all the charges against him and accepting a life sentence.
Some of the LAPD officers who responded to Thursday’s shooting were there ten years ago as well, and for them there must have been something of a here-we-go-again feeling to it all. It soon turned into a full-blown media circus, with politicians and LAPD brass parading before the cameras and hundreds of police officers brought in from all over town for purposes never made entirely clear. But as I watched the incident unfold on television and listened to the radio traffic from the scene, it soon became apparent that what had occurred was not a terrorist act but rather an example of the kind of violence that, in other circumstances and in other parts of the city, would have been easily ignored by the politicians, the brass, and the press. The Los Angeles Times reported that detectives believe one of the victims may have been specifically targeted over a business or personal dispute, and that the second victim was shot merely because he happened onto the scene. Even as crime continues to fall all over Los Angeles, shootings such as this one remain sadly common.
Nevertheless, the neighborhood where the shooting occurred was turned upside down for hours on Thursday while the entire LAPD remained on tactical alert. Deputy Chief Michael Moore told reporters that officers were maintaining what he described as a “loose perimeter” around the neighborhood and that officers were searching the area for a suspect. Moore knows, or should know, that having a “loose” perimeter is like having none at all, especially when, as was the case on Thursday, it’s set up long after the crime has occurred. To no one’s surprise, no suspect was found.