Albany Police: Man fired gun outside Temple Israel, told officers ‘Free Palestine’
A 28-year-old man is accused of firing shots on the grounds of Temple Israel and yelling “Free Palestine” before he was arrested. FBI Albany identified the man as Mufid Fawaz Alkhader late Thursday evening.
The release from the bureau said Alkhader is charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
“More information will be provided by the United States Attorney’s Office following an initial appearance scheduled for [Friday] at U.S. District Court in Albany,” said a statement from an FBI spokesperson.
The shooting happened Thursday afternoon just before 2 p.m. at the synagogue on New Scotland Avenue near St. Peter’s Hospital, police said.
Albany Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
The suspect was being interviewed by detectives Thursday, according to Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins.
“There is no threat to the community. All the information we have right now in this case is this person was acting alone,” he said.
The suspect fired from a staircase on the grounds of the synagogue. Police found two shell casings at the scene. He does not know in what direction the suspect fired.
Officers were on scene within a minute, according to Hawkins.
The suspect fled in a southbound direction and was confronted by a person in a vehicle in a nearby parking lot. The gunman then reportedly said he felt he was victimized, Hawkins said. He then encountered police. He made the remark about Palestine when he was being arrested.
No one was injured.
St. Peter’s Hospital and St. Peter’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center were locked down for patient safety. The preschool at the synagogue also was in lockdown.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan extended her deep condolences to the synagogue as Chanukah began Thursday night.
“This should be a time of celebration. This should be a time where families gather and celebrate their faith with pride. We stand in solidarity with Temple Israel and the entire Jewish community in Albany and across the Capital Region,” she said.
Albany Police have stepped up patrols.
Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a statement condemning the shooting and said she has ordered stepped-up patrols.
“Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Chanukah is even more deplorable. As New Yorkers, we must stand united: this is not who we are. We reject hate, antisemitism and violence in all forms. And we have no tolerance for the forces of evil who are trying to tear our communities apart,” she said in a statement.
The Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York also praised the speedy response of police.
“As we prepare to light the first Chanukah candles tonight, we look to bring some light to the darkness in our world and pray for a future of peace and prosperity for all,” the organization said in a statement.
The FBI is also investigating.
“Our office immediately deployed multiple resources and will continue to work in concert with our law enforcement partners, to include the United States Attorney’s Office, to work through the facts and determine any potential motives,” they said in a statement.