Miami, Fl – Two days after a North Miami Beach resident was shot outside an Orthodox synagogue, the Miami Dade Police Department is turning to the local community, hoping that someone has information that may lead to the apprehension of the lone gunman.
In a one on one interview with VIN News, Detective Alvaro Zabaleta, public information officer for the Miami Dade Police Department, said that local law enforcement is working hand in hand with the FBI as they continue their investigation at the Young Israel of Greater Miami, one of several Orthodox synagogues clustered around NE 10th Avenue which offers easy access to I-95.
The MDPD has increased patrols in the area, with additional officers assigned to shifts during morning and evening hours when services are being held. Dedicated priority response teams have also been providing strategic coverage, saturating the area near North Miami Beach’s synagogues to add an extra level of protection and the MDPD’s Homeland Security Bureau has been on scene since Sunday.
Police officers have continued to comb the area, getting footage from security cameras, hoping to be able to piece together the shooter’s movements both before and after the gunshots rang out. While surveillance video has given authorities images of the suspect’s vehicle, no clear footage has emerged yet of its license plate. As their investigation continues and they continue verifying leads, the MDPD is asking the public to be its eyes and ears.
“Somebody had to see something,” Zabaleta told VIN News. “At 6:35 in the afternoon, broad daylight on a Sunday? There’s still a lot of things that people were doing, errands to run, a lot of stuff going on a Sunday and somebody had to see something within the area of the synagogue where this occurred.”
Zabaleta noted that tips can be reported anonymously either through the Intracoastal District’s hotline or through Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers which is offering a $1,000 reward for any information that results in apprehension of the perpetrator.
“We don’t need your personal information,” said Zabaleta. “We just need to know what you know. Your tip can crack the case and lead to an arrest.”
The suspect is considered to be armed and dangerous, making it all the more important for anyone with any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, to come forward.
“When something like this occurs, I think it’s time for the community to come together as one in order to help us solve this case,” observed Zabaleta. “This victim here … by the grace of G-d, survived. But if this individual is out there and not apprehended … this is a dangerous person that we have in our community that is willing probably to do it again and the next person may not be as lucky.”
The MDPD is seeking information anywhere in the vicinity of the Young Israel and the NE 10th Avenue corridor that might give them an idea of whether the shooter had been checking out other synagogues or where he may have headed after the incident. Area residents and local businesses may have helpful footage on their security cameras without even being aware of it, observed Zabaleta, who said that officers will be happy to retrieve the recordings without any questions asked about anything else.
“We have to come together with this,” added Zabaleta. “If we can’t feel safe at our place of worship then where have we gone as a community?”
Zabaleta noted that the MDPD wants to send a clear message to the area’s Jewish community: feel free to go to the synagogue without fear, fully confident in the knowledge that they have full police protection.
Police are still unable to determine if the shooting will be classified as a hate crime, but Zabaleta said that any potential decision that the crime does not meet the legal standard of a hate crime would not detract from the MDPD’s efforts in their investigation or its outcome in any way.
Deputy Director Afredo Ramirez, Assistant Director Thomas Hanlon and North Division Chief Ariel Artime, high ranking members of the Miami Dade Police Department, met last night with 15 area rabbis and community activists to share ideas and discuss concerns and additional security measures. Following the meeting, police chaplain Mark Rosenberg accompanied the MDPD officials to the Young Israel and other local synagogues, spending a significant amount of time touring the area.
That visit was followed up on Tuesday afternoon with another trip to the Young Israel, this time by MDPD Director Juan Perez who sat under the same awning where 69 year old Warren Lipschutz was shot, a common gathering spot for synagogue members.
“He said he wanted to see it for himself and feel what congregants feel like when they come to the synagogue,” said Rosenberg.