April 15, 2011
Man thought to be synagogue blast suspect arrested
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Authorities were working to confirm the identity of a man who was arrested in Ohio and believed to be the person police suspect of setting off an explosion at a Santa Monica synagogue last week.
The man believed to be Ron Hirsch, 60, was arrested in suburban Cleveland Heights late Monday after a concerned citizen who came into contact with him called police, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles.
"It's believed to be him but, just as in any arrest scenario, a formal identification must be made," Eimiller said.
She had no immediate details of the arrest, but a rabbi in the Cleveland area told ABC News that another rabbi who spotted Hirsch at a synagogue called police.
"A fellow in our community spotted him in the schul on Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights," said Rabbi Sruly Wolf. "The rabbi who spotted him called the Cleveland Heights police, who immediately responded and called the FBI."
Investigators believed Hirsch boarded a New York–bound Greyhound bus after Thursday's blast near Chabad House Lubavitch of Santa Monica.
Hirsch is believed to have family in New York. However, surveillance cameras captured him getting off the bus in Denver, going to the ticket counter and then boarding another eastbound bus, FBI spokesman Dave Joly in Denver said.
Authorities considered him dangerous based on his suspected involvement in the explosion.
Hirsch, a transient known to spend time at synagogues and other Jewish community centers seeking charity, is wanted on state charges of possession of a destructive device and unrelated local charges.
The explosion shattered windows and punched a hole in the synagogue, while sending chunks of concrete and a heavy pipe crashing into the roof of a nearby house. Authorities said a child was sleeping almost underneath where the device landed.
Authorities initially believed the blast was an industrial accident, but they now say the device was deliberately constructed and items found at the scene were linked to Hirsch.
Investigators do not have a motive for the blast. Jewish groups have said they did not believe anti–Semitism was necessarily behind it.
Police stepped up patrols at Chabad House and other houses of worship over the weekend after naming Hirsch as a suspect.
"If he did it, he's not here no more. He's not coming back," Rabbi Eli Levitansky told KCAL–TV on Monday. "If he didn't do it, the security here is ... more than it was just a couple days ago."
Associated Press (News - Alert) writer Judith Kohler in Denver contributed to this report.