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Head of Jewish Defense Organization is Arrested for Shooting Bystander

August 14, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The leader of the militant Jewish Defense Organization has been charged with attempted murder and first degree assault, after he peppered a Greenwich Village street with bullets Thursday, wounding a bystander.

Mordechai Levy, 27, the founder and president of the JDO, was taken into police custody after authorities searched for him for over two hours.

The shootout appeared to be connected to a rivalry between the JDO and the Jewish Defense League. The JDL was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1968, who turned the leadership over to Irv Rubin when he moved to Israel in 1985. That year, Levy, who was a JDL member, broke away to form the JDO, saying the JDL “wasn’t militant enough.”

According to police, Thursday’s conflict started when Rubin went to Levy’s building to serve him with court papers related to a libel suit in Los Angeles.

The suit reportedly stems from allegations that Levy called Rubin and his wife drug dealers on a Los Angeles radio show two months ago.

Neighbors said Rubin and the two men accompanying him began to throw rocks at Levy’s second-floor windows, when they could not get in to his apartment.

A witness quoted in New York newspapers heard the JDL members taunt, “Mordy, come down here, we’ve got something for you.”

Levy then opened fire onto the street with a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, injuring 69-year-old Dominick Spinnelli in the knee.

Spinnelli, a mechanic, had been sitting in a van parked on the street.

Police blocked off the street and searched for Levy for over two hours. Negotiations ensued between Levy and the police, and he was eventually convinced to surrender and was taken into custody.

Levy was charged with four counts of attempted murder, one count of assault in the first degree and one count of possession of a deadly weapon.

Police later found seven additional assault rifles in Levy’s apartment, including an Uzi.

As Levy was brought to the police station, he told reporters that Rubin and his companions had been trying to kill him.

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