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Suspect set fire inside prominent Hollywood synagogue, LAPD says

April 14, 2011 |  1:58 pm

Arson Authorities are investigating a small fire and burglary that occurred overnight at a prominent Hollywood synagogue.

Police say a man believed to be in his late 20s broke into the temple, collected several items, placed them on a desk and set them on fire using a candle. Sources familiar with the investigation told The Times the probe is ongoing and that detectives don't believe it was a hate crime.

The suspect fled the scene, but his image was captured on video. He is believed to be a transient who frequents the area. The fire did minor damage to the facility.

Television news helicopters showed several uniformed and plainclothes law enforcement personnel at Temple Israel of Hollywood in the 7300 block of Hollywood Boulevard. Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Beatrice Girmala, who oversees the department's Hollywood Division and was at the synagogue, said in a brief phone interview that the heavy response was made out of an abundance of caution.  

"Because it is a house of worship, we're taking every precaution to be sure we know we are not underplaying the situation," she said. Girmala declined to provide further details of the unfolding incident, saying police were currently sweeping the synagogue's large campus, which includes a school. 

Any disturbance at a synagogue was likely to draw a quick and large response after the explosive device that was detonated last week at a Santa Monica synagogue.

Ron Hirsch, 60, who was wanted in connection with that explosion at the Santa Monica Chabad House, was apprehended this week in Cleveland Heights in Ohio after fleeing, authorities said.

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-- Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin

Image: Los Angeles Police Department

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