LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The man suspected of firing a makeshift missile into a Los Angeles-area Jewish community center was charged on Tuesday with launching the projectile and fleeing to Ohio in a bid to avoid prosecution.
Ron Hirsch, 60, was arrested in suburban Cleveland on Monday after a rabbi spotted him inside a synagogue there four days after the attack, which caused no injuries but sparked a nationwide manhunt.
Hirsch is charged in connection with an explosion last Thursday that hurled a steel pipe encased in concrete into the side of a Chabad House, or local headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch sect, in Santa Monica.
The 250-pound projectile punched a hole in the outside wall of the building and landed on top of a nearby home, tearing a gash in the roof above the bedroom of a sleeping 12-year-old child, the FBI said in an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint.
The makeshift missile appeared to have been launched from a plastic trash can containing hardened cement found nearby. Also found were several roles of plumbing and duct tape, metal rods and three empty bags of demolition chemicals.
A receipt for the three sacks of the demolition agent bore Hirsch’s name, address and phone number, the FBI said.
Investigators later determined that Hirsch, who also goes by the name Israel Fisher, had boarded a Greyhound bus for a trip from Los Angeles to New York hours after the blast but changed buses after arriving in Denver.
Authorities issued a nationwide alert with a photo of the bearded Hirsch, but the trail went cold until Monday, when a rabbi in Cleveland Heights saw a man fitting the suspect’s description in his own synagogue and called police.
Questioned at the scene by officers, Hirsch said he had traveled from California to Ohio for kidney surgery, and he was taken into custody, the FBI affidavit said.
Federal prosecutors subsequently charged him with unlawful “flight to avoid prosecution for damaging or destroying any building.”
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office issued a felony complaint seeking his extradition from Ohio and charging him with various explosives-related offenses, including “explosion with intent to murder.”
If convicted Hirsch faces a possible life sentence in state prison.
Hirsch remains jailed in Cleveland, and it remains unclear whether he will fight extradition from Ohio.
Authorities said they had established no motive for the attack. But a statement by federal and local investigators on Monday said Hirsch was “known to frequent synagogues and Jewish community centers seeking charity from patrons.”
Editing by Peter Bohan