SFPD, FBI searching for man who fired apparent blanks inside Russian synagogue

The San Francisco police department and the FBI are looking for a man, who fired a gun several times inside a synagogue in the Richmond district. 

Police said the man entered the Schneerson Center around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. 

Synagogue officials said a group of people was sitting at a table for a class and celebration following evening prayer services. 

They invited the man, who was speaking Russian, to sit with them. 

Then, he pulled out a gun and began firing possible blanks across the room. 

He then walked out. 

"The people are in so much shock, half of them don’t realize what’s happening," said Alon Chanukov, vice president of the Schneerson Center.  "They hear noises, a few of them duck, they didn’t get out of their seats before it was over." 

The synagogue serves mostly Russian-speaking Jews at 26th and Balboa streets. 

Chanukov said he had left the synagogue just before the shooting and only found out about it the next morning, when someone showed him the bullet casings. 

He said no one called police until he did in the morning, because they feared the man would be let go and come back to cause more harm. 

"Now he’s upset at us for putting him in jail, he goes and starts smashing the synagogue, or gets something worse, that was the reason no one reported it," said Chanukov.

SFPD tells KTVU there were no reports of injury or property damage and are investigating the casings as possible blanks. 

The FBI is now involved, releasing photos of the suspect. 

Chanukov said the man said something before he started shooting that made him believe this was an antisemitic attack. 

"The fact that he brought the Mossad in, and thought that by shooting up this place and doing the terrorizing these elderly Jewish people, and this family synagogue, community center, that he’s somehow hurting the state of Israel," said Chanukov. 

The small synagogue is now looking at ways to afford hiring a security guard and is asking for additional police patrols.

Despite the terrifying incident, Chanukov says the scary incident will not stop synagogue from welcoming anyone to pray and be part of their community. 

"The idea is we want to bring light, we want to improve this world, bring light to the world, we’re not going to stop it, just because this wicked man wants us to stop."

SFPD said the suspect’s description is similar to an incident also in the Richmond neighborhood on Tuesday. 

That’s when they say a man walked into a theater on the 3600 block of Balboa Street and pulled out a gun while speaking with an employee. 

No shots were fired, he then left the theater. I