Images from incidents at the Schneerson Center (left) and Balboa Theater, possibly involving the same suspect.
Images from incidents at the Schneerson Center (left) and Balboa Theater, possibly involving the same suspect.

Arrest made in San Francisco synagogue shooting incident 

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Expressing gratitude to the FBI for its help with the investigation, the San Francisco Police Department announced late Friday the arrest of a suspect officials believe shot blank rounds inside a Jewish gathering place on Wednesday and brandished a firearm a day earlier at a nearby movie theater.

Police said they have the man, whom they have not named, believed to have walked through the front door of the Schneerson Center on Balboa Street and opened fire using blanks. Nobody was injured and no property was damaged during the incident, according to officials. The act shocked about a dozen attendees, many of them seniors, sitting around a table during a religious study session.

A day earlier, the same man is believed to have brandished a weapon at the Balboa Theater, alarming employees before fleeing on foot.

The suspect was located around 5 p.m. Friday in the Richmond District, police said, and he was arrested without issue. Investigators secured a search warrant of his residence that “revealed evidence related to the incidents, which was seized,” police said

The man was booked at San Francisco County Jail on charges of disturbing a religious assembly, brandishing an imitation firearm and “causing another to refrain from engaging in a religious service,” according to police.

It was not immediately clear why police charged the suspect with brandishing an “imitation” firearm. Elsewhere police referred to the weapon simply as a firearm — witnesses told J. that the weapon had the look and sound of a real gun. The following day, police recovered spent shell casings at the scene, they said, and were investigating whether the suspect had fired blanks, which generate a muzzle flash and sound of a shot with no projectile.

A spokesperson for the SFPD did not immediately respond to a request for more information Saturday.

Reached by phone, Rafael Brinner, director of Jewish community security for the nonprofit Jewish Community Federation based in San Francisco, expressed relief and gratitude to investigators. 

A day earlier, an email from Brinner was distributed widely across the Jewish community with a photo of the suspect, asking people to be on the lookout as Shabbat approached.

“We’re incredibly grateful to SFPD and the FBI for moving aggressively to find this man and mitigate any threat he poses,” Brinner said.


Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.