Police investigate after man storms synagogue with a gun

The shooting occurred in San Francisco's 'little Russia' district


San Francisco Police are investigating a possible hate crime after an unidentified man walked into a synagogue and reportedly fired several blanks from a handgun on Wednesday night, in an apparent attempt to terrorise shulgoers.

The incident, which caused no injuries or property damage, occurred inside a Richmond District synagogue on Balboa Street in San Francisco around 7:20pm as a mainly Russian-speaking group gathered for a study session.

According to police, the unknown man entered the building and “shot several times” in a direction away from the more than dozen people present inside the building.

Security cameras inside the synagogue captured the incident, which in total lasted less than a minute, and showed a man wearing a baseball cap and dark jacket enter the room, gesture with his arms, and speak briefly before pulling out a handgun and firing around the room between six and eight times.

There are conflicting reports of what the man said before he opened fire.

According to the community’s leader, Rabbi Bentzion Pil, the man told those present that he was from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, and that he was about to begin shooting.

Mr Pil told J. news: “I thought he was joking, he looked like a Russian Jew.”

In a statement, the Progressive Zionists of California are calling for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime.

They said: “Those present recall the gunman as saying “Hello my Jewish friends. I want to show you something.” He then produced a firearm and said, “Say hello to the Mossad for me” and began firing the weapon…”

The possible terror attack was only reported the next morning on Thursday at around 9:30am after younger community members heard what happened. The delay in contacting authorities is thought to be due to a Soviet Union-era mindset in which the members, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s, do not automatically trust police.

The Rebbetzin Mattie Pil, told J. news: “They still feel like they’re in the Soviet Union. There, when something happens, it’s always the fault of the Jews. If you called police, it would be your fault. So they didn’t want to make any waves.”

Police noted that there was another similar report in the area just the day before. A man with a gun entered Balboa Theater on Tuesday at 8pm, just over half a mile away, brandishing a handgun at employees before fleeing on foot.

Although the two incidents appear to be unrelated, it is likely that the same man was involved. Witness descriptions and surveillance footage at both locations show that it was a white male with a goatie, wearing almost identical outfits.

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