Dearborn suspect told people at Michigan synagogue they were ‘going to die’
A Dearborn man charged in an antisemitic attack at a historic synagogue in Bloomfield Township remained in custody Monday afternoon after a magistrate set a bond of $1 million at an arraignment where the suspect shouted derogatory and anti-Jewish remarks at the magistrate.
A police detective revealed new details in court during the arraignment, saying that witnesses said the suspect, Hassan Yehia Chokr, 35, told them they were going to die. And a review of records in Wayne County and 19th District Court in Dearborn indicate he has had past troubles with the law, including an ongoing case of an assault with a dangerous weapon and assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer in a separate incident two years ago that has a pretrial hearing set for Dec. 6 in Wayne County.
Chokr, charged Sunday with two counts of ethnic intimidation, yelled “Jewish b—-” and “Zionist b—-” at Magistrate Julie Nelson-Klein of 48th District Court in Bloomfield Township during Monday’s arraignment. Appearing via a video stream from jail, Chokr showed his middle finger and let loose a rambling stream of rants claiming that God is going to punish the magistrate. He also yelled at a police detective at the arraignment, using an expletive, a video posted by Fox 2 Detroit shown. At one point, Nelson-Klein asked the court to mute his voice on the video stream, but his voice was still heard as he yelled loudly.
Chokr was taken into custody by Dearborn Police on Saturday, accused of threatening Jewish children and adults at the synagogue and preschool as some parents were dropping off their children.
A not guilty plea was entered Monday for Chokr, with bond set at $1 million cash surety, no ten percent, said court official Heather Wrubel. Chokr faces a probable cause hearing Dec. 15 at 10 am before Judge Marc Barron.
“I am gratified that the court placed a high bond so that this man is currently still in custody, where he can’t do more damage,” said Rabbi Mark Miller, the religious leader of Temple Beth El. “The only way for us to defeat antisemitism and hatred is for all of us to work together… interfaith partners, the political and legal systems, law enforcement officials, individuals of all backgrounds. Violence, whether verbal or physical, has no place in our society, and we need to find some way to reverse the current trend of hatred being acceptable in the public sphere.”
Detective Chris Wegienka testified during the arraignment, describing what happened outside Temple Beth El on Friday morning.
“On Dec. 2, 2022, at approximately 8:57 in the morning, Bloomfield Township police officers responded to Temple Beth El … for a report of a male subject in a white van screaming profanities,” Wegienka said during the arraignment, which was livestreamed on the court’s YouTube channel.
More:Dearborn man charged in antisemitic incident at Michigan synagogue
A security guard said Chokr was “driving through the parking lot yelling profanities” and telling him to “shut the f— up, b—-.”
The guard said he asked Chokr to keep moving, but Chokr became hostile and started using anti-Black slurs, saying: “What are you going to do if I don’t? Do you want me to get out…?” using a racial epithet.
Eventually, Chokr drove out of the parking lot to the intersection of 14 Mile and Telegraph roads, Wegienka said. Some community advocates have said Bloomfield Township police were too friendly towards Chokr and mistakenly let him go on Friday.
“Hassan advised the officers that he was just expressing his freedom of religion, freedom of the press and his right to speak up,” Wegienka said.
“Later, additional witnesses came forward and issued statements advising that they felt threatened and scared during this incident,” Wegienka said.
The witnesses said Chokr was telling people at the synagogue: “Do you support Israel? How dare you. You are going to pay. F— Israel and Jews.”
Wegienka confirmed that Chokr’s Instagram page is FreedomFighterHassan, on which Chokr often makes explicit and derogatory remarks against Jewish people, describing at one point how he would sexually assault them. He also mocks people who express concern about Jewish children being targeted in one of the videos on his Instagram page.
“He also posted a video of the traffic stop with the officers,” Wegienka said.
A Fox 2 Detroit reporter posted a video of his outburst. Miller of Temple Beth El and an attorney confirmed Chokr’s outburst.
After making vulgar remarks towards the magistrate, Chokr told her: “God is gonna judge you … the way you’re judging me.”
He then made remarks about “the system” and alleged that his free speech rights were being violated.
“Your system is bull—-,” he said. “Your system is going to collapse. You’re taking my freedom of speech away, my freedoms away. … You go ahead and give me that harsh punishment. You’ll see the punishment God’s gonna give you. I’m a God-fearing man. …. I have no intent to hurt nobody. I was practicing my freedom of speech.”
Records in 19th District Court in Dearborn show he has had more than 30 cases stretching back to 2005. It’s unclear what the cases are about. Wayne County records show that in addition to his pending assault case, he was charged with malicious destruction of personal property in 2020; the case was later dismissed.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement Monday: “Those who espouse hate and are motivated to commit crimes against specific populations or communities because of that bias threaten the values we hold scared as Americans. … No one should fear for their safety because of who they are, where they worship, who they love—or any other unique attribute that contributes to the diversity of our state.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @nwarikoo
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Dearborn man arraigned in antisemitic attack at Michigan synagogue
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