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Man Arrested After Firing Gun Near Temple Israel Synagogue in Albany

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Man Arrested After Firing Gun Near Temple Israel Synagogue in Albany

A man fired a shotgun on the grounds of an Albany, N.Y., synagogue on Thursday afternoon and later said, “Free Palestine,” according to the police, sending the building into lockdown and prompting a hate crime investigation hours before the beginning of Hanukkah.

No one was injured, and a suspect was quickly arrested nearby.

The Albany police chief, Eric Hawkins, said the authorities were investigating the shooting, which occurred around 2 p.m. at Temple Israel in the state capital, as a hate crime.

The man fired two shots while making “threatening statements,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a briefing on Thursday. The man then tried to flee but was held by a bystander and later by the police, who arrived after receiving a report of a man with a shotgun acting suspiciously.

Before he was arrested, the man dropped the shotgun and told the bystander he was being “victimized,” according to the police. As he was being taken into custody, he said, “Free Palestine,” the police said.

The police said it was not yet clear if the man, 28, had been aiming at the synagogue or had fired into the air. The shooting has prompted investigations by the local police and the F.B.I.

Temple Israel is a Conservative synagogue on the west side of Albany that also houses an early childhood center. Educators and more than two dozen children were inside when the shots were fired, and the center went into lockdown, state officials said. All the children have since returned safely to their families, Governor Hochul said at the briefing.

The synagogue was one of several across the state that received bomb threats in September, forcing an evacuation during Rosh Hashana services.

Officials in New York immediately condemned the shooting as a symbol of rising antisemitism.

“Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” Governor Hochul said on Thursday. “Make no mistake: The safety of Jewish New Yorkers is nonnegotiable.”

In a statement, Kathy Sheehan, the Albany mayor, denounced the day’s events, calling them “a symptom of the malignant antisemitism that is spreading across our country.”

Mayor Eric Adams of New York City also issued a statement condemning the shooting, which he said had “no known nexus” to the city. He added that there were already plans in place for elevated police presence around public menorah displays and at other Hanukkah events.

“Everyone in our city has a right to practice their faith in peace, and we will ensure that right is protected,” Mr. Adams said.

The governor said that she had directed the State Police to be on high alert since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, patrolling synagogues, yeshivas and community centers for any sign of suspicious activity.

Officers were on the scene on Thursday within one minute after the shots were fired, Chief Hawkins said, attributing the fast response time to recent heightened surveillance of faith-based establishments.

“When something like this happens, we’re likely going to have some officers that would be very, very close,” he said.

The rabbi of Temple Israel, Wendy Love Anderson, said messages of sympathy had been flowing in since the shooting.

“We’re going to be lighting Hanukkah candles because we need light in darkness,” she said.

Dana Rubinstein contributed reporting.

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