February 26, 2008
City and Feds offer $95,000 reward for information on Valley firebombings
The City Council had responded last Friday to the Feb. 18 incidents, which are being investigated by law enforcement as hate crimes, by offering a $50,000 reward. The FBI agreed to contribute an additional $20,000 and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) offered another $25,000.
"The Jewish community is an integral part of the Valley and the city of Los Angeles, and all crimes and acts of vandalism against any religious group or house of worship are taken very seriously and given the highest priority," Councilman Dennis Zine, whose district includes the West Valley, said at a City Hall press conference. "We must apprehend the urban terrorists responsible for these horrific attacks."
Zine, who requested the reward from the council, was joined by Councilman Jack Weiss and representatives from Los Angeles police and fire, FBI, ATF and the Anti-Defamation League and the Valley Alliance, a branch of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the owner of the JCC facility.
"In this most-diverse major city in the history of the world, we need to stand together to fight this virus of hate," said Amanda Susskind, ADL regional director. "Not just this one symptom, but in all its ugly forms."
No one was hurt in the attacks, which caused minimal property damage. The first occurred at the JCC in West Hills, where a grainy surveillance video shown today depicts two men throwing a fiery object at the front of the building at 2:02 a.m. About 30 minutes later, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a nearby house and a mezuzah was torn from its doorpost.
The incidents added to a growing list of recent anti-Semitic activity in the San Fernando Valley. Last month, residents of four homes in Encino and Tarzana awoke to find swastikas and derisions like "F--- Jews" and "Burn Jews" spraypainted on residential walls.
The council has offered a $50,000 reward for information about those crimes, too. Officials have no evidence the graffiti and firebombs were related, but the spate of anti-Semitic incidences has heightened concern, and officials hope the rewards will lead to arrests and that punishment will deter future incidences.
"What were the criminals in this case trying to do? They were trying to intimidate Jews. They were trying to cause in Los Angeles who are Jewish to live in fear," said Weiss, whose Sherman Oaks office was vandalized last spring with swastikas and an incoherent rant that said, among other pleasantries, "We'll have a homoerotic cop feeling up your Jewish ass in no time!!! Hail Weiss!!"
"Well," Weiss said, "let's look at reality. Are we living in fear? No. We are living with pride in the fact that we are joined at the hip in the Jewish community in Los Angeles with law enforcement. We are not afraid; we won't be intimidated. In fact, our partners and friends in law enforcement are going to track down the people who committed these hate crimes. And let me tell you something: Those are probably the people who should be living in fear now. Because as of today, there is $95,000 on the street for your friends, your family members and your associates to give you up."
Law enforcement officials asked anyone with information to call Los Angeles arson investigators at (213) 485-6095 or police at (213) 485-2000.