Video shows suspect fire shots at Jewish synagogue; rabbi calls it 'terrorist attack'

'He came to terrorize people,' rabbi said of alleged synagogue attack

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Friday, February 3, 2023
SFPD, FBI searching for suspect who shot inside synagogue
Video shows a man firing gunshots inside the Schneerson Jewish Center in San Francisco. SFPD and the FBI are now searching for the suspect.

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco police and the FBI are searching for man who opened fire inside a synagogue on Wednesday night.

"Terrorism doesn't have to have killings. In my mind, what he did was he came and he did a terrorist attack. He came to terrorize people," said Rabbi Alon Chanukov. He is a junior rabbi and vice president of the synagogue.

Surveillance video shows a man enter through the front door, rack his gun and fire off several rounds.

"The action is terrifying. To have a stranger come in and start shooting in your place of worship, in a place where you should feel safe," Rabbi Chanukov said.

The small synagogue serves mostly Russian-speaking Jews. One man who was there Wednesday night, explained what led up to the shooting.

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"Here comes a guy, I ask him, 'Do you speak Russian?' He said, 'Yes.' I asked him, come join us. I didn't hear, but some people said, he said, 'I'm going to show you something,'" said the man, who did not want to be identified.

He said that's when the suspect pulled out his gun. Many believe the man shot blanks since no one was injured. He said the reason people were slow to react to the shooting, as seen in the video, was simply because they were stunned.

"They were all stunned! Could you imagine, like you invite a friend, and he starts to shoot. You're stunned. Unprepared. Everybody was stunned!" said the man.

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Rabbi Chanukov left shortly before the suspect came, but he is adamant that this is a hate crime. He said as the suspect left, the man waved and made reference to the Mossad - Israeli's secret intelligence agency.

"I believe that may have been when he said, 'Say hello to Mossad for me,'" Chanukov said. "And so somehow he was harming Mossad by scaring the Jews in America at this one synagogue. I am not really clear. Obviously, I think the person is deranged, the person is mentally unwell."

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In a statement to KGO, the San Francisco Police Department said the suspect matches the description a man who flashed a gun at a nearby theater earlier this week.

Rabbi Chanukov said his other big concern is for the Jewish school that is two blocks away from the synagogue.

"About two weeks ago, somebody drew a swastika at the school, down the block. I don't know if it is this person. I don't know if it is a different person," said the rabbi. "I am worried; what if this person comes next time with a real gun? Or real bullets? Or a knife?"

The rabbi said they only notified police on Thursday morning because those who were at the synagogue Wednesday night feared retaliation.

The center plans to beef up security for Shabbat, or the Jewish sabbath, which begins at Friday sunset and runs through Saturday.