Man shoots up San Francisco Russian Jewish center with gun loaded with blanks: report
Police car lights (Shutterstock)

A man opened fire on a study room of a Russian Jewish cultural center in San Francisco, using a gun loaded with blanks, reported The Jewish News of Northern California on Thursday.

"The man entered the Schneerson Center around 7:20 p.m. in the middle of a session on the life of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, according to Rabbi Bentzion Pil, who leads the community," reported Gabe Stutman. "The man said in accented Russian that he was from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, and that he was going to start shooting."

"Located in a Richmond District neighborhood near what’s often called 'Little Russia,' the Schneerson Center is a node of Jewish life for immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the Bay Area, where FSU households number between 15,000 and 20,000, according to Rabbi Shimon Margolin, who leads a local nonprofit serving Russian-speaking Jews," said the report.

Security camera footage shows the man entering the room, dressed in a baseball cap, jacket, and sneakers. "After about 15 seconds, he reaches into his jacket pocket and reveals a handgun," said the report. "He appears to struggle to cock the weapon, while an elderly man makes a phone call and starts walking toward him. As the elderly man approaches, the suspect starts firing his weapon, and the elderly man crouches down. He fires in a direction away from those seated around the table, then proceeds to fire around the room while some people clutch their ears and duck. In total the suspect fires between six and eight shots. Then he leaves."

According to the report, the people gathered there debated over whether to call the police after he left, with one person telling The Jewish News he simply seemed like a "crazy guy" and "didn’t scream any antisemitic words or expressions." They ultimately decided not to call the police "because they were unhurt and they doubted the man would be kept in detention for long if he was caught," but the police were eventually notified when younger members of the community learned what had happened.

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While the man's motives were unclear, anti-Semitic hate crimes in California have attracted national attention, including one 2021 attack on diners at a sushi restuarant.