(JTA) — The suspect in an explosion outside of a Southern California Chabad House was arrested after he was recognized while praying in a suburban Cleveland synagogue.
Ron Hirsch, 60, also known as Israel Fisher, was arrested Monday night in a Cleveland Heights synagogue and Jewish center by the FBI and local police shortly after evening prayers as he sat studying from a Jewish text.
Hirsch had visited the synagogue on Sunday night, where he prayed and then asked the rabbi for food and a place to stay. The rabbi bought him dinner and put him up at a local hotel instead of offering to let him stay at the local Hebrew shelter, since Hirsch was not able to produce the proper credentials to be allowed to stay there.
The next day, the rabbi saw Hirsch’s photo on a Jewish website.
"I saw the facial features, although he shaved off part of his beard," the unidentified rabbi told ABC News. "First thing I did was call my local rabbi to see if I could report him. He said, ‘If he is a danger to society, you have to report him.’ I called the FBI in Santa Monica. They asked me to call the Cleveland Heights police. They came to synagogue, and he was sitting right in the back."
The April 7 blast at the Santa Monica Chabad House, which was believed to be deliberately set after initially being classified by police as an industrial accident, forced the evacuation of the Jewish center and synagogue during early morning prayers. It raised security concerns at Los Angeles-area synagogues and Jewish institutions.
The explosion launched a 300-pound metal pipe encased in concrete, which smashed through the roof of a home next door to the Chabad House
Items found near the site were linked to Hirsch, who is being sought on state charges of possessing a destructive device and additional charges. He is known to frequent synagogues and Jewish community centers seeking charity from patrons.
Police in Santa Monica knew that Hirsch had purchased a bus ticket to New York and had been scheduled to arrive there Sunday after 10 scheduled stops. Police at each of the stops had been notified, according to ABC News.