US: Police watch synagogues, seek suspect after blast

After the blast security near synagogues & Jewish centers has been beefed up.

Last Updated: Apr 10, 2011, 13:59 PM IST

Los Angeles: Police have stepped up patrols around synagogues and Jewish centers in the west Los Angeles area after a homemade bomb blast triggered a hunt for a suspect described as "extremely dangerous."

Detectives issued a mugshot of a 60-year-old homeless man, Ron Hirsch, wanted over the explosion Thursday near the Chabad House Jewish temple in Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles.

"We`re making routine patrols four or five times during our watch," said Sergeant Richard Parks of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Pacific station, which covers an area west of LA.

Some 100 peope were evacuated after early morning blast, which officials initially said was due to some kind of industrial accident.

But intensive analysis by bomb experts over 24 hours found material linked to a known transient in the debris of a 300-pound (135 kg) metal post cased in cement which landed on a nearby roof.

The blast shattered windows, damaged an outside wall of the synagogue, and propelled the metal pipe onto a neighboring house, where a boy was sleeping, police said.

The suspect was identified as Hirsch -- who also goes by the name of Israel Fisher, and who is wanted on charges of possessing a destructive device -- late Friday. By Sunday he had still not been found.

Hirsch "is known to frequent synagogues and Jewish community centers seeking charity from patrons," said a Santa Monica police spokesman, adding that he was known to beg across the LA`s Westside to Santa Monica, on the seafront.

"Based on his suspected involvement in this incident, Hirsch is considered extremely dangerous," added the spokesman, Jay Trisler, who issued a mugshot showing Hirsch with a full beard and green eyes.

Nobody was injured in the early morning blast, which triggered initial reports of a pipe bomb before police said it due to "some type of mechanical failure" -- but then confirmed late Friday that it was an explosive device.

A statement on the Chabad House website said a service was going on at the time of the scare, adding that those praying inside "did not hear or feel anything" and were alerted to the incident by police.

An update later said: "Some individual was attempting to separate concrete and pipe.

"He left the debris next to Chabad House and some chemical reaction took place which made the pipe shoot up and hit the roof of the next door property," it added, saying there was "some small damage to our outside wall."

Janti Rashti, 59, whose home was damaged when the concrete mass fell on her rooftop, said she recognized Hirsch among a number of photos police showed her after the incident.

He sometimes slept by the side of the synagogue, she told the LA Times newspaper, but added: "I just don`t believe it was him ...The synagogue was never mean to him. I certainly never did anything to him."

A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said the type of explosive device was very unusual. "This is clearly not a traditional type of explosive device," spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told the LA Times.

"This was a huge mechanism with construction-type materials that were painstakingly taken apart by experts" before they confirmed what it was, and launched a manhunt for the man suspected of making it.

Bureau Report