UPDATE March 28, 2023: The district attorney initially charged Mishin with two felony religious terrorism counts with hate crime enhancements, but they were dropped after a preliminary hearing cast doubt on claims that Mishin’s actions were motivated by antisemitism. Two days later, on March 9, the prosecution filed additional charges based upon newly discovered victims. Mishin now faces six felony counts of interfering with religious worship—religious terrorism charges—with hate crime enhancements, plus seven misdemeanor counts for drawing a replica firearm and disturbing a religious meeting; more here.
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UPDATE March 17, 2023: San Francisco Superior Court Judge Michelle Tong granted a two-year gun violence restraining order against Dmitri Mishin. The restraining order will remove firearms from Mishin and prevent him from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition for two years; more here.
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UPDATE March 8, 2023: Presiding Superior Court Judge Loretta M. Giorgi affirmed the bulk of the charges brought against 51-year-old Mishin, but in a move that complicated the narrative brought by prosecutors and significantly changed the complexion of the case, Giorgi tossed out hate crime charges, determining they were not sufficiently supported; more here.
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UPDATE February 9, 2023: San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said 51-year-old Dmitri Valerie Mishin has been charged with two felony counts of obstructing the exercise of religion, one count of misdemeanor disturbing a religious meeting, and five counts of misdemeanor brandishing a firearm. Prosecutors are pursuing his counts of obstructing the exercise of religion as a hate crime; more here.
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UPDATE February 5, 2023: San Francisco police investigators arrested 51-year-old Dmitri Mishin late Friday afternoon in connection with an incident earlier in the week in which Mishin entered a Jewish synagogue and fired off several rounds from a firearm; more here.
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San Francisco police and the FBI are searching for a man who opened fire inside the Schneerson Jewish Center (Chabad) in San Francisco on Wednesday night.
The man entered the Schneerson Center around 7:20 p.m. in the middle of a session on the life of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, according to Rabbi Bentzion Pil, who leads the community.
The man said in accented Russian that he was from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service and that he was going to start shooting.
“I thought he was joking,” Pil told J. on Thursday. “He looked like a Russian Jew.”
Located in a Richmond District neighborhood near what’s often called “Little Russia,” the Schneerson Center is a node of Jewish life for immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the Bay Area, where FSU households number between 15,000 and 20,000, according to Rabbi Shimon Margolin, who leads a local nonprofit serving Russian-speaking Jews.
After the man entered, Pil said he first asked whether he wanted to join their session. It soon became clear that was not his intention.
A jarring video of the incident captured on a security camera shows a man wearing a baseball cap, jacket and sneakers enter the room and gesture animatedly with his arms while speaking to those seated around a table. After about 15 seconds, he reaches into his jacket pocket and reveals a handgun. He appears to struggle to cock the weapon, while an elderly man makes a phone call and starts walking toward him. As the elderly man approaches, the suspect starts firing his weapon, and the elderly man crouches down. He fires in a direction away from those seated around the table, then proceeds to fire around the room while some people clutch their ears and duck. In total, the suspect fired between six and eight shots. Then he leaves.
“Everyone was stunned and shocked,” Pil said.
The video shows little movement from a dozen or so people around the table — many of whom are in their 60s or older, shul members said.
Pil said the group was perplexed. “It was so unexpected from him,” he said.
One person in the group said he might have seen the suspect before. Still, after the shooting started, Pil said he went into the kitchen to grab a knife, but by the time he got back, the man was gone.
After the man left, those gathered deliberated about whether to call the police, Pil said.
“I still believe it was just a crazy guy,” he said. “He didn’t scream any antisemitic words or expressions.”
Ultimately they decided it wasn’t worth contacting the police because they were unhurt, and they doubted the man would be kept in detention for long if he was caught.
Only the next day was law enforcement contacted after some of the younger community members heard about what had happened.
According to statistics compiled by the California attorney general’s office, hate crimes targeting Jews have been on an upward trend over the past 10 years. Jews are the most frequent target of religiously motivated hate crimes, numbers that accord with national figures.
In an interview with J., the rebbetzin Mattie Pil, Rabbi Bentzion Pil’s wife, lent another interpretation as to why the most senior Jews from the former Soviet Union did not contact the police.
“They still feel like they’re in the Soviet Union,” she said. “There, when something happens, it’s always the fault of the Jews. If you called the police, it would be your fault. So they didn’t want to make any waves.”