LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — A Seattle man was charged Tuesday with a hate crime attack for allegedly trying to hit two men leaving a synagogue with his vehicle last week in Hancock Park, prosecutors said.
Mohamed Abdi Mohamed is charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
He plead not guilty during a court appearance Tuesday. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered Mohamed to be jailed in lieu of $500,000 pending a bail review hearing on Friday.
Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sullivan that authorities believe Mohamed traveled to California to commit the crime, while an attorney from the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office countered that the prosecution’s theory was “purely speculative.”
Police say the 32-year-old yelled anti-Semitic remarks at the pair of victims, made a U-turn and then drove at the men, who were on a sidewalk. Nobody was hurt.
The suspect was arrested after crashing into another car in the largely Jewish neighborhood near the Mid-Wilshire area.
Mohamed, who was born in Somalia, is a U.S. citizen who resides in Seattle.
Investigators believe Abdi was acting alone, and not as a member of a group.
A man told CBS2 he was walking with a friend when Mohamed drove his car directly at them while they were in a crosswalk. He told CBS2 that they were able to jump out of the way.
Security footage provided to CBS2 showed the car in question making a hard U-turn and driving at the men.
“We both scrambled in different directions, so he slammed on his brakes and obviously missed us, thank God,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous.
“He’s yelling out hateful remarks regarding Jewish heritage and regarding these people of faith,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Monday. “They watch him as he then turns his vehicle directly at them.”
Cameras then caught the car reversing course and trying to strike the men again.
“He clearly was going at us, and it was even more clear on round two,” the victim said.
The intersection where the alleged attack took place has two synagogues. It also happened on the Sabbath, where many Jewish people are walking in traditional attire.
Mohamed faces a possible maximum sentence of eight years and eight months in state prison if convicted as charged.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Wire services contributed to this report.)