A Seattle resident who allegedly tried to run over two men last November outside a synagogue in a Jewish neighborhood in the Wilshire area while yelling anti-Semitic remarks pleaded not guilty Thursday to attempted murder charges.
Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, 33, was initially charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon — a vehicle — along with a hate crime allegation. The additional charges, which were filed Tuesday, involve the same alleged attack on the two men, according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos.
The victims, who escaped injury, were walking on a sidewalk when they were targeted about 9:30 p.m. Nov. 23 near La Brea and Oakwood avenues, authorities said.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the pair had just left a synagogue in the 300 block of La Brea Avenue and were walking toward Oakwood Avenue when Mohamed allegedly tried to run them over. He was arrested by Los Angeles police that night.
“He’s yelling out hateful remarks regarding Jewish heritage and regarding these people of faith,” Moore said then. “They watch him as he then turns his vehicle directly at them.”
Mohamed was taken into custody after he got into a collision while speeding away. A knife was found in his vehicle, according to the LAPD.
“Hate in America is on the rise,” Moore told reporters after Mohamed’s arrest. “That has to change. And a portion of that is that every community recognize that when such acts occur, that the department — LAPD — (and) that our federal and state partners will bring the full weight of the law to hold accountable those who believe that there would be some other type of response.”
Moore said Mohamed, a U.S. citizen who was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, had been in the Los Angeles area for “a very short period of time” prior to the attack, but declined to elaborate.
Investigators believe he was acting as a “lone individual” and not as a member of a group, but the investigation was continuing into his background and associations, including his social media connections, according to Moore.
At Mohamed’s first court appearance Nov. 27, the prosecutor told a judge that authorities believe Mohamed traveled to California specifically to commit the crime, while an attorney from the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office countered that the prosecution’s theory was “purely speculative.”
At another hearing three days later, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Deborah S. Brazil ordered Mohamed’s bail to be doubled from $500,000 to $1 million and suspended criminal proceedings after a defense attorney expressed doubt about the defendant’s mental competency. He was later found competent to stand trial.
Mohamed tried to speak several times during a subsequent hearing, telling the judge at one point, “Your honor, I’m not a terrorist.”
At a Jan. 10 hearing, the judge refused the defense’s request to lower Mohamed’s $1 million bail or to release him on his promise to return to court. She noted that she had considered electronic or GPS monitoring for Mohamed, who has no local ties, and determined that it would be “insufficient to ensure the public is protected.”
The prosecutor told the judge that the defendant had unsuccessfully tried to buy a gun, done some internet searches on similar attacks and traveled outside the country, while Mohamed’s then-attorney, David L. Canas, said his client has “mental health problems” and that it would be impossible for him to post $1 million bail.
Mohamed — who appeared in court with a new attorney as he was being arraigned on the more serious charges — is due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse Feb. 22, when a date is expected to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.
If convicted as charged, Mohamed could face a potential life prison sentence.