Two L.a. Rabbis Win High Praise for Help in Arrest of Alleged Rapist

Two young Orthodox rabbis have become instant heroes by tracking down a suspected serial rapist.

Rabbis Chaim Kolodny, 31, and Shmuel Manne, 34, were besieged by television and newspaper reporters last Friday, after they and other members of the Hatzolah emergency medical service were instrumental in the capture of a man believed to have committed four sexual assaults and attempted four others.

Hatzolah, or Hebrew for Rescue, was established in Los Angeles a year ago as the city’s only volunteer emergency medical service. It operates mainly in the heavily Jewish mid-Wilshire and Fairfax districts.

Police had earlier transmitted a composite drawing of the suspect to the group, and Kolodny, who serves as director of the Cheder of Los Angeles boys and girls schools, had transmitted the description to the community through e-mail and fliers, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Abraham Matyas, a Hatzolah volunteer, was driving in the neighborhood on the evening of Aug. 15 when he spotted a pedestrian fitting the suspect’s description and started following him.

To avoid arousing the suspect’s suspicions, Matyas called in other volunteers to join the chase and switched cars, with the two rabbis taking up the pursuit at a minimall. They followed the man as he stopped at a couple of residences and rang the doorbells, without getting a response.

Satisfied that the man fitted the suspect’s description, Kolodny used his cell phone to call police, who arrested Gary David Johnson, 41, a man with an extensive criminal record in California, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina, according to authorities.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office announced Monday that Johnson has been charged with 20 felony counts, including forcible rape, sexual battery, burglary and robbery.

If Johnson, who is charged with attacking mainly elderly women, is convicted, the two rabbis and their friends stand to collect a $25,000 award, which will be earmarked by Hatzolah to buy defibrillators.

Lauded by police, Kolodny said, “I don’t feel like a hero, but I’m happy for all the bubbes,” or grandmothers, “in the area.”

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