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'Extremely Dangerous' Suspect in Chabad House Explosion Previously Visited Synagogue: Source

An investigation determined that the explosive device was linked to a transient, police said Friday night.

(Updated at 9:09 p.m.): A police investigation has determined that the explosive device was linked to Hirsch, a transient, the SMPD just announced.

Police said Hirsch is being sought on state charges of possession of a destructive device, as well as unrelated local charges. Federal investigators have also expressed interest in questioning Hirsch.

In the same statement, the SMPD shed light on the investigation of the explosion, which was initially said to be caused by a device but then later attributed to an accidental "mechanical failure." On Friday, police said that an explosive device was in fact responsible for the blast.

The SMPD investigation commenced after the initial report was received on Thursday morning.

"Responding bomb technicians conducted initial field testing and found evidence of what appeared to be an industrial incident involving cement and other materials; however, a continuing investigation ensued to determine what caused the explosion," police said.

"Over the next 24 hours, bomb technicians and detectives conducted further forensic analysis at the scene and, after unearthing much of the large portion of the cement found, uncovered materials indicating that the device appeared to have been deliberately constructed."

The blast launched a piece of metal into a nearby residence, according to multiple reports.

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(Updated at 8:12 p.m.): The explosive device was homemade and deliberately placed outside the synagogue, the LA Times reports.

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(Updated at 7:23 p.m.): The suspect may be named "Ron Hirsch," not "Hirsch Ron." While police have referred to him as the latter, Mirel Levitansky, who also works at the synagogue, called him the former.

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(Updated at 7:03 p.m.): Santa Monica Patch has obtained a confidential bulletin issued by the SMPD indicating that the suspect is Hirsch Ron, a.k.a. Israel Fisher. He is 60 years old, has brown hair and green eyes, is 5' 7" and weighs 207 pounds.

"Hirsch is known to frequent synagogues and Jewish Community Centers in search of charity from patrons," the bulletin said. "Hirsch should be considered extremely dangerous."

Those with information about Ron are asked to call Det. Derek Leone at 310.458.8949.

Ron has frequented Bais Yehuda, a congregation located at 360 North La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles, according to police.

On Friday night, Santa Monica Patch spoke with Mirel Levitansky, the wife of Eli Levitansky, who is the co-rabbi at the Chabad House. She said Ron has also stopped by that synagogue "over the years."

"There are people who come and go, attend prayer service," she said. "He makes his rounds, looking for handouts, for money."

Mirel Levitansky said she hasn't interacted with Ron.

"He hasn't caused any trouble [in the past]," she said. "He needs a little bit of help."

She added that she wasn't sure if the incident was malicious in nature.

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The explosion that occurred Thursday at the Chabad House Lubavitch of Santa Monica was in fact caused by an explosive device, not a mechanical failure, Sgt. Cody Green of the Santa Monica Police Department confirmed to Santa Monica Patch on Friday night. He said the explosive device contained gun powder and concrete.

There "appears to be at least one suspect at this time," he said.

The person "frequents synagogues and Jewish community centers, and should be considered 'extremely dangerous,' " the Los Angeles Times reports.

The explosion occurred Thursday morning around 6:45 a.m. No one was injured in the incident.

Rabbi Isaac Levitansky, the leader of the synagogue, told Santa Monica Patch on Thursday morning that he wasn't sure if the bomb was intended for the synagogue, or what the motivation for planting it may have been if it was.

"We didn't hear anything" when the bomb exploded, he said. "We were in the middle of morning prayers. Thank God everyone was OK."

Levitansky said the prayers continued outside after the congregants were evacuated. He also said services—including a Seder dinner and other Passover-related events from Apr. 18 to 19—will not be disrupted.

"We will continue to put on services as normal," he said.

Later in the day, police said the explosion was due to mechanical failure.

"It was not a bomb, it was not an intentional act," SMPD community-relations representative Lauralee Asch told Santa Monica Patch, adding that an incendiary device was not involved.

Asch added that the police got confirmation that it was not a bomb after 11 a.m.

The Chabad House, located at 1428 17th St., is an Orthodox synagogue that opened in 1970. It features after-school programs for boys and girls, as well as field trips, groups and other events.

More on the synagogue blast:

• FBI: Synagogue Bombing Suspect Arrested in Ohio

SMPD: Synagogue Bombing Suspect Still at Large

Synagogue Blast Was Probably Not a Terrorist Act, Anti-Defamation League Director Says

Susan Wehrle April 09, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Nice Job with this! LA Times beat you with the update, but they don't always have local breaking news. You are giving Santa Monica a much-needed news service! Please keep it up! Susan Wehrle Santa Monica Resident
Helena Ruffin April 09, 2011 at 02:11 AM
On Monday I drove passed the Wilshire blvd synagogue on Bundy and olympic only to be regaled by a Fred Phelps-type group with "convert to jesus" signs on all 4 corners. I wonder....
Kurt Orzeck April 09, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Many thanks, Susan. If you ever have any suggestions for editorial coverage, news tips, etc., don't hesitate to reach out to me at Kurt.Orzeck@patch.com. All the best.
Reza Gostar April 09, 2011 at 05:59 AM
Great coverage!

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