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Los Angeles police step up patrols around places of worship following mass shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue

Los Angeles police step up patrols around places of worship following mass shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue
The Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles in 2013. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles police increased patrols around synagogues and other places of worship Saturday in the wake of a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“We are monitoring the situation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania very closely and communicating with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners,” the LAPD tweeted. “Right now there is no apparent connection to Los Angeles.”

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“However, out of an abundance of caution you will see extra patrols around houses of worship today. Remember if you see something...say something.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted a similar message of caution, saying “we are reaching out to Jewish community leaders. We mourn with #TreeOfLife community today.”

Authorities in Pittsburgh said there were 11 fatalities in the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the center of the city’s Jewish community. Four police officers were also shot.

The suspected gunman was in custody and identified as Robert Bowers, 46, law enforcement officials said.

The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters. A law enforcement official told CNN that the shooter made anti-Jewish comments during the incident.

Amanda Susskind, Los Angeles regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said anti-Semitic incidents were up by 57% nationwide in 2016-17. Still, she said the shooting surprised her.

“It never stops being shocking and horrifying when something like this happens,” she said.

Speaking to reporters, President Trump suggested that if the synagogue had had armed protection, “maybe it could have been a very much different situation."

Susskind said security can be helpful but isn’t the only way to protect places of worship from harm.

"Frankly, if someone is coming in with guns blazing, it’s hard to say whether that would make a difference,” she said. “Synagogues struggle with balancing wanting to be open to the community and protecting congregants. It's a tough, conflicting thing.”

Meanwhile, the Interfaith Solidarity Network, a group comprised of L.A.-area faith-based leaders seeking to inspire solidarity and interfaith dialogue – issued a statement Saturday about the shootings.

“The ISN condemns the shooting as a xenophobic act of violence stemming from ongoing national divisive rhetoric and policies, and stands in solidarity with the victims of this heinous and racist act,” the organization said. “The ISN also calls on all faith-based leaders across the country to step up efforts toward building bridges of tolerance, peace and unity.

The ISN plans to hold an Interfaith Solidarity March on Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. to foster understanding and unity through shared values. The mile-long march will begin at Temple Aliyah, 6025 Valley Circle Boulevard, in Woodland Hills, proceed to Presbyterian Church, 5751 Platt Avenue, and end at Ezzi Masjid Mosque, 5701 Platt Avenue.

12:10 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from local officials.

10:00 a.m.: This article was updated with new information from LAPD.

This article was originally posted at 9:55 a.m.

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