Andrew Blankstein and Robert J. Lopez – LA Times April 12, 2011
A man suspected in the explosion last week next to a Santa Monica synagogue was arrested in Ohio late Monday after someone noticed him at another synagogue in Cleveland Heights.
Sources told the Los Angeles Times that Ron Hirsch, 60, was arrested near a Chabad House in the Ohio city. He is accused of setting off a large explosive device at the Santa Monica Chabad House on Thursday.
The FBI said Hirsch fled Los Angeles on a Greyhound bus after the explosion. He was believed headed to New York, where he has relatives. But authorities said Hirsch may have gotten off the bus elsewhere.
On Monday afternoon, the FBI released images from a surveillance camera at a Greyhound station in Denver, which showed Hirsch walking through the building and standing at a counter.
It was unclear whether he took a bus from Colorado to Ohio. Authorities stressed late Monday that the investigation was ongoing and that additional details would be released as they became available.
Hirsch is believed responsible for last week’s blast that sent a 300-pound metal pipe encased in concrete crashing through the roof of a home next to the synagogue, on 17th Street near Broadway. No one was injured.
Authorities first said the blast was accidental but later determined that explosives had been used.
Law-enforcement sources told The Times that the explosive contained gunpowder and other materials linked to Hirsch. But authorities said they had not determined a motive.
Hirsch, also known as Israel Fisher, was described by authorities as a transient who frequented Jewish synagogues and community centers in search of charity. Among them was the Congregation Bais Yehuda on North La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.
The FBI; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Los Angeles Police Department; the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department; and the Santa Monica police and fire departments were investigating the incident.
ABC News quoted a rabbi in Cleveland Heights as saying Hirsch was seen inside his synagouge.
“A fellow in our community spotted him in the shul on Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights,” said Rabbi Sruly Wolf. “The rabbi who spotted him called the Cleveland Heights police, who immediately responded and called the FBI.”