San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins

DA files hate crime charges in S.F. synagogue shooting incident

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The San Francisco district attorney’s office filed hate crime charges Wednesday against Dmitri Mishin, the 51-year-old man who is accused of entering a synagogue during a religious study session last week and firing blank rounds using an imitation gun.

Mishin was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on eight criminal counts, including two felonies for interfering with religious worship, felonies enhanced by charges he did so in service of a hate crime, plus one misdemeanor for disturbing a religious meeting and five misdemeanor counts of brandishing an imitation weapon.

Prosecutors will be asking the judge to keep Mishin jailed before trial because of a risk to public safety, the DA’s office said. He remained in custody Wednesday.

Mishin, a Russian speaker, allegedly entered the Schneerson Center, a small shul in the Richmond District serving mainly Russian Jews, during a study session being conducted by Rabbi Bentziyon Pil the evening of Feb. 1. A source close to the Russian Jewish community in San Francisco said Mishin suffers from mental illness and alcohol overuse — a background check by J. revealed he had been arrested several years ago for DUI and drug charges in Northern California.

Witnesses to the Schneerson Center incident said the intruder spoke in imperfect Russian and mentioned the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. He then fired between six and eight shots in less than three seconds, a surveillance video shows — the shots produced a muzzle flash and were described as “very loud” by Pil, who said he ran into the kitchen to grab a knife but when he returned the suspect was gone.

The Schneerson Center, a synagogue serving mainly Russian-speaking Jews in San Francisco, was the site of an incident in which a man fired several blanks from a gun. (Photo/Google Maps)
The Schneerson Center, a synagogue serving mainly Russian-speaking Jews in San Francisco, was the site of an incident in which a man fired several blanks from a gun. (Photo/Google Maps)

In an interview with J. Wednesday afternoon, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said her administration would be taking a muscular approach to the Mishin prosecution and other hate crimes.

Jenkins, a former city hate crimes prosecutor, has stressed the importance of vigorously pursuing bias crimes in the city, particularly after a spate of assaults during the pandemic targeting Asians, with many captured in jarring cellphone or surveillance videos.

Noting concerning trends on antisemitism, Jenkins added that “while you may publicly hear me speak about certain issues or topics as it relates to certain communities, that does not mean that other communities are not heard as well.”

Initial charges released by San Francisco police after the Schneerson Center incident did not specify that hate crimes would be leveled, leading some synagogue leaders to call out city law enforcement publicly Monday. Establishing a hate crime can be tricky, Jenkins said, requiring proof of the suspect’s state of mind at the time of the incident. “We have to have concrete evidence to prove that this isn’t a random attack, that this is a hate-motivated attack,” she said.

In this case, the DA’s office reviewed statements made by Mishin inside the synagogue, as well as social media posts linked to him, and determined that hate crime charges would be appropriate. A Twitter account linked to Mishin showed a bevy of antisemitic posts published in recent weeks, including Nazi propaganda, and photos of an individual who looked like a much younger version of Mishin wearing Nazi military garb.

The account also included a video, published days before the incident, of a small fire being lit outside the Schneerson Center at night.

Jenkins, the city’s top prosecutor since being appointed by Mayor London Breed after the recall of progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin last summer, has met with Jewish community leaders during her tenure, she said, and she is “fully aware of the level of fear and concern surrounding antisemitism and surrounding hate crimes” within the Jewish community.

The Schneerson Center incident is the second recorded anti-Jewish hate crime in San Francisco in the last two months. On Dec. 21, Jenkins’ office filed a felony assault charge with a hate crime enhancement against 31-year-old Eduardo Navarro Perez, who allegedly used a skateboard to attack a 30-year-old Jewish man while shouting antisemitic insults late at night on Haight Street.

Jenkins said she would be monitoring both anti-Jewish cases “to make sure that there’s true accountability” and to make sure “we send a message to anyone else who is contemplating engaging in antisemitic acts that they will not be tolerated here under any circumstances.”

Mishin could face up to 10 years in state prison if convicted, Jenkins said.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

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