After classifying a Thursday morning explosion outside a S. Monica, Calif., Chabad-Lubavitch center as a possible industrial accident, law enforcement agencies reopened a criminal investigation into the matter, concluding that a projectile that landed on a neighboring roof was deliberately launched.

Transient Ron Hirsch, 60, also known as Israel Fisher, is the prime suspect in the attack – which led police to evacuate a four-block radius around the Chabad House run by Rabbi Isaac and Sara Levitansky.

According to the S. Monica Police Department, Hirsch, a heavyset white male who is being sought on state charges of possession of a destructive device and unrelated local charges, “is known to frequent synagogues and Jewish community centers seeking charity from patrons.”

He is considered “extremely dangerous.” An investigation by the local police, the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the S. Monica Fire Department continues.

The 6:45 a.m. explosion occurred shortly before morning prayer services at the Chabad House at the 1400 block of 17th Street. Worshippers who heard the blast thought nothing of it at first, but police – responding to a call about debris falling on the roof next door – ordered everyone outside. Shortly thereafter, they cordoned off the entire area.

No one was injured.

Ron Hirsch (Photo: SMPD)
Ron Hirsch (Photo: SMPD)

“An investigation into an explosion has been underway since the initial report was received,” police said on Friday. “Responding bomb technicians conducted initial field testing and found evidence of what appeared to be an industrial incident involving cement and other materials.”

But “over the next 24 hours, bomb technicians and detectives conducted further forensic analysis at the scene,” said police. “After unearthing much of the large portion of the cement found, [they] uncovered materials indicating that the device appeared to have been deliberately constructed.”

Mirel Levitansky, a local Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, told the S. Monica Patch that Hirsch had stopped by the synagogue “over the years.”

“There are people who come and go, attend prayer service,” she said. “He makes his rounds, looking for handouts, for money. ... He hasn’t caused any trouble [in the past].”

She added, by way of understatement: “He needs a little bit of help.”