Shooter of two Jewish men in L.A. agrees to plead guilty to hate crimes

Los Angeles, CA, Friday, February 17, 2023 - LA Mayor Karen Bass along with FBI, LAPD and Jewish community leaders at a press conference announcing the arrest of Jaime Tran for the attempted murder of two people outside separate synagogues. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, shown with law enforcement officials and Jewish community leaders, announces the arrest of Jaime Tran last year in the attempted murder of two Jewish men. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A former Riverside resident who shot and wounded two Jewish men, putting the community on edge last year, has agreed to plead guilty to hate crimes and firearms offenses, federal officials said Tuesday.

Jaime Tran, 29, will plead guilty to two counts of hate crimes with intent to kill and two counts of using, carrying and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Under the plea agreement, filed Tuesday, Tran would receive a prison sentence of 35 to 40 years.

“This defendant sought to murder two men simply because they were Jewish,” U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada said in a news release. “Rather than allow these horrific crimes to divide us, however, our community came together and swiftly brought the perpetrator to justice. Hate and intolerance have no place in America."

Tran's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more: Jews in West L.A. are resolute, on edge after gunman targets Jewish community in 2 shootings

Tran's plea agreement detailed a history of antisemitism that escalated in the years prior to the shooting.

Tran left dental school in 2018, after making hateful statements about other students whom he perceived to be Jewish, according to the agreement.

His antisemitic statements between August 2022 and December 2022 increasingly included violent language, according to the agreement. Over that period, prosecutors said, Tran texted a former classmate that someone was going to kill them, that they should kill themselves and to "Burn in an oven chamber you b— Jew.”

Tran also admitted to emailing around two dozen of his former classmates a flier containing antisemitic propaganda, including the statement: "Every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish."

Because of previous mental health episodes, Tran was prohibited from buying guns. He admitted to paying a third party roughly $1,500 to buy him a .380-caliber pistol and an AK-47-style semiautomatic rifle.

LAPD officers on horseback in Pico-Robertson
LAPD officers on horseback patrol Pico Boulevard after the shootings of two Jewish men in Pico-Robertson in February 2023. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

The Times previously reported that in the year before the shootings, Tran had been charged with carrying a loaded firearm.

The plea agreement also detailed Tran researching locations with a “kosher market," planning to shoot someone in that area. On Feb. 15, 2023, he drove to the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, where he spotted a Jewish man identified by prosecutors only by the initials R.H., who was wearing a yarmulke.

Tran admitted that as R.H. opened the door to his own car after leaving religious services, he shot the man at close range in the back, intending to kill him.

The next morning, Tran returned to the same area and saw another victim, who prosecutors identified by the initials G.T. The man was leaving religious services and also wearing a yarmulke. Tran admitted that he shot G.T. as he was crossing the street, intending to kill him.

Both men survived the attacks. Law enforcement arrested Tran on Feb. 17 and he's been in custody since.

Read more: Suspect in shootings of two Jewish men in L.A. is charged with federal hate crimes

In a news release, Krysti Hawkins, acting assistant director of the FBI’s L.A. field office, said Tran's "hatred led him to plan the murder of two innocent victims simply because he believed they were practicing their Jewish faith."

"I’m relieved that the hard work by investigators and prosecutors led to Tran’s admission to these abhorrent crimes, and hope that members of the Jewish community take some solace in knowing that he will not be in the position to target their fellow members," Hawkins said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.