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Suspect arrested for shooting blanks inside San Francisco synagogue

PIX Now 09:39

SAN FRANCISCO -- A man suspected of brandishing a firearm, shouting threats and firing a round of blanks inside a San Francisco synagogue was arrested without incident Friday night.

The Schneerson Center, a synagogue in San Francisco predominantly attended by Russian-speaking Jews, was shaken Wednesday night when a man entered the building and fired several rounds, believed to be blanks, into the air. No one was injured but the incident left the congregation disturbed.  

The man was arrested Friday evening in the Richmond District on suspicion of disturbing a religious assembly, brandishing an imitation firearm and causing another to refrain from engaging in a religious service, police said in a statement.

S.F. Synagogue Shooting Suspect
Surveillance photos of a suspect sought by police for incidents involving a firearm at a San Francisco Richmond District synagogue and the Balboa Theater FBI / SFPD

Dmitri Mishin, 51, of San Francisco was booked into jail shortly before 12:30 a.m. Saturday and was being held without bail, according to the San Francisco Sheriff's Office.

It wasn't immediately know whether he had an attorney to speak on his behalf.

Shortly before 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mishin is suspected of walking into the Schneerson Center on Balboa Street, which holds religious services and classes along with social activities for the local Russian Jewish community,

Surveillance video showed a man wearing a baseball cap, jacket and sneakers entering a room with more than a dozen people at a table. The man made hand gestures before taking out a gun and firing. As an elderly man approached him, he headed to the door, saluted and left.

The people at the table seemed to remain calm but the rabbi said they were stunned.

"We were shocked," he said. "No one was expecting it. I was about to go to the kitchen to get a knife ... but the whole thing took like 20 seconds."

No injuries or damage were reported and investigators believe the man used blanks.

A day before that shooting, Mishin is believed to have entered the Balboa movie theater several blocks away on Balboa Street, brandished a gun and fled, police said.

No shots were fired.

Through the course of the investigation, detectives identified the male subject. On Friday at approximately 5:00 p.m. officers located him in the Richmond District and he was detained.

Investigators developed probable cause to obtain a search warrant and searched the suspect's residence. The search revealed evidence which was seized. 

Junior rabbi Alon Chanukov, who is also the vice president of the Schneerson Center, says he believes the attack was targeted. He explained that the man spoke Russian and was seen as a friendly visitor, which is why the congregants did not initially react to the gunfire.

"This person was seen as a friendly person, as a person who is probably just a Russian Jew who walked in off the street," Chanukov said. 

Chanukov said the man was talking about the Mossad and firing into the air before leaving the room.

"You don't take a gun, make sure to have bullets that are blanks, go to a Russian-speaking synagogue during a celebration weekly class on a Wednesday and shoot it up and say something about Mossad just by coincidence," Chanukov said. The Mossad is Israel's national intelligence agency.

While an arrest has been made, this remains an active investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the SFPD 24-hour Tip Line at (415) 575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. You may remain anonymous.  

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