Suspect Yelled ‘Free Palestine’ While Firing Gun Outside Albany Synagogue: Cops

A 28-year-old man was arrested on the grounds of a synagogue in Albany, New York on Thursday afternoon, accused of firing a shotgun and saying “Free Palestine!” according to police. No injuries were reported in the episode, which occurred hours before the beginning of Hanukkah.

The suspect, described by authorities as a local man, was taken into custody just minutes after firing off two rounds in the parking lot of the Temple Israel after 2 p.m. local time. It was not immediately clear if he’d fired into the air or at the synagogue, with Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins saying at a press conference that there’d been no damage done to any buildings.

Still, he said, an early childhood center on the premises went into lockdown, which was later lifted.

After firing his gun, the suspect walked away, encountering a witness in a car, according to Hawkins. They spoke briefly before the suspect dropped his shotgun. He was detained by officers who arrived on the scene shortly after.

“We were told by responding officers that he made a comment, ‘Free Palestine,’” Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

The incident is being viewed by authorities as a hate crime. Both state and local police, as well as the FBI, are investigating.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at the news conference that she’d directed state police and the National Guard to be on high alert through Hanukkah.

“I have spoken to the rabbi at Temple Israel,” Hochul said, “and assured her the state will do everything in our power to restore the sense of security her community needs.”

The rabbi, Wendy Anderson, promised, “After this press conference, we’re going to be lighting Hanukkah candles—because we need light in darkness.”

The governor noted that Temple Israel in Albany was one of a number of synagogues targeted in a September bomb threat, forcing its congregation to evacuate on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The New York Police Department noted last month that antisemitic incidents had soared by 214 percent since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Oct. 7.

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