Man agrees to plead guilty in shooting of two Jewish men in West LA

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A 29-year-old man has agreed to plead guilty to federal hate crimes and firearms offenses for shooting two Jewish men after they left synagogues in the Pico-Robertson district last year less than 24 hours apart, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Jaime Tran, previously of Riverside, has agreed to plead guilty to all charges against him: 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. Attorney’s Office.

Tran is expected to plead guilty to the felony charges in downtown Los Angeles before U.S. District Judge George H. Wu in the coming weeks.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Suspect in West LA Jewish shootings pleads not guilty

Upon entering his guilty plea, Tran will face up to life in federal prison for each hate crime count, and a maximum of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for each firearm count.

Under the plea agreement, Tran would receive a prison sentence of between 35 years and 40 years.

“These horrific acts — motivated by poisonous, antisemitic beliefs — shocked our community,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. “Law enforcement will continue to work together to prevent and punish hate crimes. Our resolve remains firm, standing with our Jewish community and others to oppose acts of hate.”

According to his plea agreement, Tran developed and espoused antisemitic beliefs and made violent threats toward Jewish people. For example, in 2018, he left dental school after making hate-filled statements about other students whom he perceived to be Jewish.

From August 2022 to December 2022, Tran’s antisemitic statements escalated and used increasingly violent language, including against a former classmate whom he repeatedly called and texted with messages such as “I want you dead, Jew. Someone is going to kill you, Jew” and “Burn in an oven chamber,” the plea agreement states.

In November 2022, Tran emailed two dozen former classmates a flyer containing antisemitic propaganda, including a statement blaming the COVID-19 pandemic on a Jewish conspiracy, he admitted.

As a result of previous mental health holds, as of 2023, Tran was prohibited from purchasing firearms. In January 2023 in Phoenix, Tran asked a third party to buy two firearms for him. Tran selected the firearms he wanted and paid approximately $1,500 in cash to the third party, who then purchased them, prosecutors said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Federal hate crime charges filed in shooting of 2 Jews leaving synagogues in Pico-Robertson

Tran acknowledged that on the morning of Feb. 15, 2023, he used the internet to research locations with a “kosher market,” and planned to shoot someone near a kosher market because he believed there would be Jewish people in the area. Tran drove to Pico-Robertson and shot a Jewish victim wearing a yarmulke as he was leaving religious services at a synagogue. Tran, believing the victim was Jewish, shot him at close range in the back, intending to kill him. Tran then fled the scene in his car, his plea agreement states.

The next morning, Feb. 16, 2023, Tran returned to the Pico-Robertson area, intending to shoot another Jewish person, he admitted. Tran shot a second Jewish victim, also wearing a yarmulke and leaving a synagogue after attending religious services. Tran shot the victim at close range, intending to kill him, as the victim crossed the street. Tran again fled the scene.

Both victims survived the attacks. Law enforcement arrested Tran on Feb. 17, 2023, and he has remained in custody since then.

“The defendant’s hatred led him to plan the murder of two innocent victims simply because he believed they were practicing their Jewish faith,” said Krysti Hawkins, the acting assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “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.”

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.