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A man arrested in connection with allegedly firing shots outside an Albany, New York, synagogue on Thursday has been federally charged, officials said.
Mufid Fawaz Alkhader has been arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, FBI spokesperson Sarah Ruane told NBC News.
Alkhader is 28, according to two senior law enforcement officials briefed on the matter.
No one was injured in the incident, in which Al Khader fired two shots from a shotgun outside Temple Israel around 2 p.m., Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said. Police don’t know in what direction the shots were fired, he said.
“We were told by responding officers that he made a comment ‘Free Palestine,’” Hawkins said at a news conference.
The suspect fled after the shots were fired but was confronted by another person in a vehicle in a lot, Hawkins said.
“The suspect at that point made some statement to this person who was in the vehicle to the effect of he feels that he’s being victimized,” Hawkins said.
The suspect then dropped the shotgun, and officers arrived and arrested him, said Hawkins, who emphasized that Al Khader acted alone and that there is no further threat to the community. There was also no damage to the building.
Hawkins said his understanding is that the suspect made the “Free Palestine” comment right around the time he was taken into custody by police.
Hawkins said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime, but it was not clear what charges could be filed. They could include federal charges, he said.
The FBI said in a statement that it was investigating the incident along with local, state and federal agencies.
“Our office immediately deployed multiple resources and will continue to work in concert with our law enforcement partners, to include the United States Attorney’s Office, to work through the facts and determine any potential motives,” the FBI said.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she directed the New York State Police and the New York National Guard to be on “high alert” at at-risk locations like synagogues, yeshivas and community centers, as Hanukkah begins Thursday night.
“Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” Hochul said. “We reject hate, antisemitism and violence in all forms. And we have no tolerance for the forces of evil who are trying to tear our communities apart.”
New York Mayor ams echoed Hochul’s sentiment, saying in a statement that the New York City Police Department is “already and remains on heightened alert.”
“With the start of the holiday, the NYPD is implementing pre-planned measures for elevated security around public Menorah displays and at all lighting events. Everyone in our city has a right to practice their faith in peace, and we will ensure that right is protected,” ams said.