A 28-year-old man suspected of shooting two Jewish men after they left synagogues in the Pico-Robertson district less than 24 hours apart was charged Friday with two federal hate crime counts that could put him behind bars for life.
Jaime Tran, previously of Riverside, was charged with committing hate crime acts in connection with the shootings, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Friday.
The complaint alleges that 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.
“Over the past two days, our community experienced two horrific acts we believe were motivated by antisemitic ideology that caused him to target the Jewish community,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada. “It is important, especially in one of the most diverse areas in the world, that we celebrate our differences and stand together to oppose acts of hate.”
Tran is expected to make his initial appearance in Los Angeles federal court after 2 p.m. He will not be asked to enter a plea.
The defendant was “motived by antisemitism,” Estrada said at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles. “Hate crimes have no place in our community.”
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 medial 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 suspect was tracked to an area in Riverside County and investigators began working collaboratively with federal and regional partners to locate him, a Los Angeles Police Department official said. The suspect was arrested at 5:45 p.m. Thursday without incident.
Detectives recovered several items of evidence including a rifle and a handgun, police said.
The LAPD announced before the arrest it was “re-allocating police resources to provide a highly visible and preventative presence in the area.”
“In an abundance of caution, there will continue to be an increased police presence and patrols around Jewish places of worship and surrounding neighborhoods through the weekend,” the department announced following the arrest.
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 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.
Mayor Karen Bass said Thursday that “antisemitism and hate crimes have no place in our city or our country”
“Those who engage in either will be caught and held fully accountable,” Bass said. “At a time of increased antisemitism, these acts have understandably set communities on edge.
“Just last December, I stood blocks away from where these incidents occurred as we celebrated the first night of Hanukkah together. Now, my pledge to the Pico-Robertson community and to the city of Los Angeles as a whole, is that we will fight this hatred vigorously and work every day to defeat it.”
According to the affidavit, Tran — a former dental student — has a history of harassing people he suspected of being Jewish.
At the end of November, he allegedly emailed dozens of former classmates at the dental school, calling the COVID-19 pandemic part of a Jewish conspiracy. He included a flier in the email listing various government officials and the word “Jewish” written next to the name of every official, according to the affidavit.
About a month later, Tran allegedly again emailed former classmates, describing Jewish people as “primitive” and encouraging his classmates to blame any “inconvenience” or lost revenue from the COVID-19 lockdowns on the “Iranian Jew,” according to the document.
Between August and November, he allegedly repeatedly texted a former classmate antisemitic and threatening messages, including: “Someone is going to kill you, Jew” and “I want you dead, Jew,” the affidavit stated.