Dad of ALSJCC hate-call suspect could see it coming

The father of the man arrested on suspicion of making threatening phone calls to Palo Alto's JCC apologized this week for his son's actions.

"As his parent, I feel some obligation to express remorse and an apology about this," said Michael O'Keeffe, whose son, Kevin Riley O'Keeffe, was arrested last Friday on charges related to leaving three threatening phone messages over the past two months.

The arraignment was set for Wednesday.

"I could see it coming. There were definite signs," his father said Wednesday. "My son was making a lot of statements about minority groups and he had mentioned Jews in particular a couple of times."

The senior O'Keeffe, a maintenance mechanic in San Jose, said his politically conservative son believed many "liberal agendas are sponsored by Jews."

The third call for which Kevin O'Keeffe is charged was received Wednesday of last week at the Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto. The call hailed the shooting at an L.A.-area JCC the day before.

Still, even with O'Keeffe in custody, ALSJCC officials are moving forward with plans to beef up security.

"It's not something that's going to become a temporary measure, but something that will become ongoing and permanent," said Sanford Blovad, the center's executive director.

He described the security push as responding in equal measure to the JCC shooting and the hate calls.

The center is characterized by open, accessible spaces that will need to be closed off, Blovad said. The ALSJCC leases its space from the city of Palo Alto and has begun meeting with city officials to discuss options.

At recent open membership meetings, security has been a central topic of discussion.

"The essential element woven through is that security has to go to the front burner and remain on the front burner," Blovad said. "People are very saddened by it, but it's a direct reflection of our society as a whole."

O'Keeffe was taken into custody while on duty at Affymax Research Institute in Santa Clara last week. Several hours later, officers searched the 28-year-old's San Jose home.

According to Lieutenant Alana Forrest, police found "hate literature, several books, magazines, pamphlets, stickers, all regarding the National Alliance or the National Vanguard," a fast-growing neo-Nazi group and its publication, respectively.

O'Keeffe was charged with three misdemeanor counts of threatening phone calls, two felony counts of terrorist threats and one felony count of a civil rights violation.

Investigators were able to catch O'Keeffe through Pacific Bell phone records. The ALSJCC contacted the phone company to have the threatening calls traced.

The calls caused "considerable stress," Blovad said. "The damage he did was psychological more than anything."

Each of the three calls was left on the ALSJCC's answering machine after the receptionist left in the evening and before she arrived the next morning. On advice of the district attorney, Blovad could not disclose the exact nature of the calls but said "they were clearly hatred against the Jews."

The suspect's father said he is bothered by his son's actions.

"People, I think, would naturally assume I have similar views," he said. "My views are totally the opposite."

Michael O'Keeffe said his son had expressed some remorse for his actions since being arrested.

"He seems to be remorseful that he made threats. He said he would never really hurt anyone. He said he still has a lot of ill feelings about certain groups."

Earlier this year, a swastika was painted on the Palo Alto institution. No one has been arrested in that case.

Meanwhile, a threatening phone call was made on July 14 to Keddem Congregation, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Palo Alto. Forrest said police are trying to determine whether O'Keeffe made that call as well.

Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is a former J. staff writer.