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Security upped at DC-area houses of worship after California synagogue attack

Members of the Chabad synagogue hug as they gather near the Altman Family Chabad Community Center, Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Poway, Calif. A shooting at a synagogue outside San Diego where worshippers were celebrating the last day of Passover sent multiple people to the hospital Saturday, but the extent of their injuries was not clear, officials said. (Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. police department, along with other D.C.-area police departments, have offered their sympathies for the victims of the Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting near San Diego, along with a pledge to continue protecting religious communities throughout the region.

The attack is the second shooting at a synagogue in the United States in six months. A shooting a the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 and injured several others in late October 2018.

D.C. police said that the department will continue to provide increased attention to Islamic and Jewish institutions as well as all places of worship in the District.

“While we are not aware of any credible threats to the religious institutions across the District, we urge our community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behavior,” police said in a statement.

Lt. Brett Parson from the D.C. police said that the department has been building relationships with religious leaders for several years so that they could better respond to the community when incidents like this happen.

“What we did immediately upon being notified about the incident in San Diego … we immediately started to consult with our federal and local partners in law enforcement and the intelligence world to see if there was an immediate threat here to the Washington metropolitan area,” Parson said. “Based on our analysis and the information we have received, there is no reason to believe that the incident in California has any connection with Washington, D.C., but we know that information alone doesn’t calm the anxieties and concerns of the community members.”

Montgomery County police also tweeted that they have reached out to religious leaders in the area and will be increasing patrols of places of worship.

Montgomery County Police spokesperson Tom Jordan said that while the police department always focuses on places of worship, they have increased patrols on synagogues specifically in the wake of the shooting.

“We are going to be doing extra checks on the establishments and institutions,” Jordan said.

Loudoun County police said that they will also be increasing patrols of houses of worship “as an abundance of caution.”

Fairfax police pledged to step up patrols of local synagogues in the wake of the San Diego shooting.

Bowser tweeted her condolences to the community of the California synagogue, who were attacked while observing Passover on Saturday. Bowser condemned the shooting as “a cowardly attack on the religious fabric that holds many of our communities together.”

The mayor also referenced an interruption at the Antiracist Book Festival at Politics and Prose on the same day.

“Between the horrific act of hate and anti-Semitism at Chabad of Poway and the ignorance and hate from the white nationalists who interrupted a book talk today in D.C., my heart is broken,” Bowser tweeted.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan offered his sympathies via Twitter as well.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum expressed their dismay and alarm that a second attack on a synagogue in the U.S. had taken place in less than a year.

“Now our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “But moving forward this must serve as yet another wake-up call that anti-Semitism is a growing and deadly menace. The Holocaust is a reminder of the dangers of unchecked anti-Semitism and the way hate can infect a society. All Americans must unequivocally condemn it and confront it wherever it appears.”

The suspect in the San Diego synagogue shooting has been identified as 19-year-old John Earnest.

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