A 60-year-old transient wanted in connection with an explosion outside a synagogue in Santa Monica was arrested April 11 in Cleveland Heights, OH, authorities said.
Suspect Ron Hirsch was taken into custody after officers with the Cleveland Heights Police Department were notified by a local resident who had come into contact with Hirsch, authorities said.
A criminal complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles April 11, charging Hirsch with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for allegedly damaging or destroying any building or other real or personal property, authorities said.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged Hirsch April 12 with one felony count each of explosion with intent to murder, use of a destructive device and explosive to injure/destroy, possession of a destructive device near a public place and possession of a destructive device near a private residence, a district attorney spokeswoman said.
Hirsch, who also uses the names Israel Fisher or J. Fisher, is suspected of being involved in anexplosion outside the Chabad House on 17th Street in Santa Monica April 7, according to the FBI and Santa Monica Police Department. The explosion at 6:45 a.m. sent a 300-pound pipe encased in concrete through the air, damaging part of the synagogue’s outside wall and creating a hole in the roof of a nearby home. Residents were asleep inside the home at the time, but no one was injured.
After early speculation of a pipe bomb explosion, authorities initially believed the incident was an industrial accident involving cement and other materials. But during further forensic analysis at the scene the following day, bomb technicians and detectives found materials indicating that the device appeared to have been deliberately constructed, Santa Monica police Lt. Jay Trisler said.
Investigators determined that items found near the device were allegedly linked to Hirsch, who is known to frequent synagogues and Jewish community centers seeking charity from patrons, police said. Hirsch was being sought on state charges of possession of a destructive device and unrelated local charges, Trisler said.
Authorities said the suspect is believed to have boarded a Greyhound bus on the day of the incident after purchasing a bus ticket under the name J. Fisher to New York that was scheduled to arrive April 10. Hirsch is believed to have family in New York, police said. Additional investigation and video surveillance from the bus station showed that the suspect disembarked the bus in Denver and further deviated from his original route, authorities said.
No motive for the incident outside the Chabad House is known at this time.
Prosecutors recommended April 12 that bail for Hirsch be set at $3 million.
It is anticipated that Hirsch will be transported to Los Angeles pursuant to the federal warrant, according to the FBI.
If convicted, Hirsch faces a possible sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole, the district attorney spokeswoman said.
A joint investigation by the Santa Monica Police Department, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Monica Fire Department is ongoing.