NORTHEAST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police are searching for the gunman who, they said, opened fire outside of a synagogue in Northeast Miami-Dade, sending one of its members to the hospital.
Miami-Dade Police and Fire Rescue units responded to the scene of the shooting outside the Young Israel of Greater Miami Temple on the corner of Northeast 10th Avenue and 171st Street, just after 6:30 p.m., Sunday.
Investigators said the victim, later identified by temple members as 68-year-old Warren Lipschutz, was approaching the front door of the house of worship.
“He was here waiting for me outside every day to help me with my walker. I just had hip surgery,” said Rabbi Dovie Lehrfields, a member of the synagogue.
Officials said a black Chevrolet Impala had circled the synagogue several times as Lipschutz was walking toward the building.
“It circled once again, and by that time the victim was approaching the door,” said MDPD Detective Alvaro Zabaleta.
Police said the vehicle pulled up near Lipschutz as he was just inches from the synagogue’s front entrance, and the subject got out.
“There’s a tree that slightly interferes, but we were able to see a gun,” said Rabbi Koby Litowich.
It was at that moment when, officials said, the subject discharged his firearm, striking Lipschutz in the leg.
“Shots were fired. The victim tried to duck behind the bench,” said Litowich.
Surveillance video from more than a block away from the synagogue picked up the sound of gunfire.
Area resident Brito Fernando said he was working on his vehicle just feet away from the synagogue when the first shots were fired.
When asked how many gunshots he heard, Fernando replied, “Like six.”
In total, police said, the driver fired eight rounds.
Paramedics transported Lipschutz to Aventura Hospital where he underwent surgery and is currently listed in stable condition. He is expected to be OK.
Parishioners who know the victim described him as a devout, helpful and loyal member of the community. They said he comes to Young Israel to pray daily.
“He’s a wonderful person,” said Lehrfields. “Everybody loves him.”
Fernando said he also knows the victim.
“I see him every Sunday,” he said.
Monday afternoon, 7News cameras captured markings on the temple’s wall where parishioners believe bullets struck.
Meanwhile, police officers went door-to-door passing out flyers with a picture of a dark colored Impala. Officers have remained along Northeast 171st Street on and off since the incident.
“Anytime that someone is shot sitting outside a synagogue, it’s gonna create fear in the Jewish community,” expressed Yeheda Kaploun, who lives near the synagogue, “and it has to be addressed by the highest level.”
“Every day that I’m walking, I’m always afraid that I’m going to get shot,” said the brother of Yosef Raksin, the New York City-based rabbi who was shot and killed near Young Israel back in 2014.
Police said they do not yet know whether or not the incident can be categorized as a hate crime.
“If we can’t be safe where you want to be able to go and worship and pray, then what kind of a country are we living in?” Zabaleta said. “That’s why we want the community to come close together, let’s come together on this. Somebody had to hear something. They had to see something.”
Those who attend the synagogue reacted to the shooting.
“Scary. Terrifying. There’s no words,” said Litowich.
“It’s unfortunate that outside a house of prayer, something so terrible and evil can happen,” said Zalmy Mochkin.
A rabbi at the temple noticed a pattern with the uptick in shootings and attacks near other synagogues.
“This happens not just in this synagogue, other synagogues have had this as well,” said Lehrfields.
As police try to determine a motive, members of the synagogue were also left wondering.
“I don’t know if he was aiming to hurt a Jew or the synagogue,” said Lehrfields. “It so happens that the gentleman was sitting there. I say may he be apprehended, and may he be given the justice that’s coming to him, according to the law.”
Raksin’s brother said Sunday’s shooting brings back terrible memories.
“Four years ago, my brother was murdered just a few blocks from here, and they still haven’t caught the murderer,” he said.
Despite the shooting and active investigation, the synagogue remains open.
“I’ve had a concealed weapons permit for many years. I’ve only carried my gun with me at night, but as we’re talking now on camera, I’ve got it in my pocket,” said area resident Mark Goldstein.
Neither the synagogue nor police have released surveillance video of the incident.
Investigators said they are searching for a black Chevy Impala with dark tinted windows. Its model year is between 2006 and 2013.
Police described the subject as a man between 20 and 25 years old with a slim build and short cropped hair. He is considered armed and dangerous.
The Young Israel of Greater Miami Temple has set up a GoFundMe for Lipschutz. If you would like to donate, click here.
If you have any information on this shooting, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $1,000 reward.
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