A 24-year-old man from Pennsylvania who was arrested on Dec. 18 in Hawaii for allegedly vandalizing the Nessah Synagogue at 142 S. Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills has been returned to Los Angeles to face charges.
The suspect, Anton Nathaniel Redding, was identified on Dec. 17 using security video and forensic evidence including fingerprints, police said. Detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest and tracked Redding to Kona, Hawaii, where he was taken into custody. He is charged with vandalism of a religious property and second-degree burglary, with the penalty enhancement that it was a hate crime. Redding pleaded not guilty on Dec. 23 and is next expected to return to court on Jan. 30. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison.
Beverly Hills officials announced the arrest on the evening of Dec. 18 and credited police for thorough investigative work that enabled them to identify and locate the suspect. Redding is from Millersville, Pennsylvania, and it was not divulged what he was doing in Beverly Hills or Hawaii.
Using a series of closed-circuit surveillance cameras in place throughout the city, police tracked the male suspect after he left the synagogue and got into a taxi, which they determined took him to Los Angeles International Airport, according to police. Working with the U.S Secret Service, Beverly Hills Police Department investigators identified the suspect and determined he had boarded a plane to the Big Island of Hawaii. Detectives hastily flew to Hawaii and working with police there found Redding on Dec. 18 and took him into custody.
“I said we would catch this guy and we did,” Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch said. “The criminal who we believe desecrated a holy place on Shabbat is now in custody thanks to the superb work of the Beverly Hills Police Department. The Beverly Hills community is strong and will not be intimidated by despicable acts. Our thoughts remain with the Nessah community as they work to move forward from this terrible crime.”
The vandalism at the synagogue occurred overnight when nobody was inside the temple and was discovered at approximately 7 a.m. on Dec. 14 by an employee who arrived at work and found a door open and damage inside the building. The suspect ransacked the interior, turned over furniture and scattered brochures and materials, police said. Several Jewish relics were damaged, but the main scrolls were unscathed. Nothing was stolen.
BHPD Chief Sandra Spagnoli said solving the crime was the department’s top priority and all necessary resources were devoted to the investigation.
“I am so pleased that the collective efforts and relentless police work on this case has resulted in the apprehension of the suspect and a criminal filing,” Spagnoli said. “I’d like to thank our staff, partner law enforcement agencies and community organizations for their expeditious work and support during this difficult time.”
Following the vandalism, there was an outpouring of support for the synagogue and condemnation of the crime.
“[I am] shocked and outraged by the vandalism at Nessah Synagogue in the city of Beverly Hills,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted. “We will stand together and speak out strongly against any act of hate and intolerance in our community.”
“[I am] appalled that our neighbors, the congregation of Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills, were the victims of vandalism,” U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu wrote on Twitter. “We must condemn in the strongest terms acts of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and ensure that everyone feels safe in their houses of worship.”
Beverly Hills City Council members Lili Bosse and Julian Gold also condemned the incident. Beverly Hills officials participated in an Israel-American Civic Action Network forum on combating anti-Semitism on Dec. 18 at the Beverly Hilton.
“We stand in solidarity with the Nessah community and will assist in any way possible,” Gold said.
Police worked with the synagogue’s leadership on the investigation. Cleanup efforts were initiated on Dec. 14 and the temple reopened the following day. Bosse also attended services on Dec. 21 at the synagogue, which will hold a Hanukkah party on Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 7 p.m.
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