Chicago police make arrest in antisemitic hate crime spree targeting synagogues, Jewish schools

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Chicago police make arrest in antisemitic hate crime spree targeting synagogues, Jewish schools

Chicago police arrested a man Tuesday over what authorities are describing as an antisemitic hate crime spree last weekend targeting synagogues and

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Chicago police arrested a man Tuesday over what authorities are describing as an antisemitic hate crime spree last weekend targeting synagogues and Jewish schools. 

Shahid Hussain – a 39-year-old with a lengthy criminal record and history of mental health issues – is charged with four counts of felony hate crime, two felony counts of criminal defacement, and two felony counts of criminal damage to property, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said Tuesday.

Cook County prosecutors accuse Hussain of spray-painting swastikas on two synagogues and two high schools in Chicago’s West Rogers Park Sunday. Police also responded to a 911 call about the man yelling antisemitic slurs and threats, Brown said. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that teens in a dormitory witnessed Hussain dressed in a cape with a swastika outside yelling about Jews and breaking lights. 

CHICAGO RABBI HAS MESSAGE AFTER JEWISH BUSINESSES, SYNAGOGUES VANDALIZED: COMMUNITY WILL ‘STAND STRONG’ 

“I encourage anybody to take this moment also to bring more good and more light to the world and in this way we will make the world a better place,” Rabbi Levi Notik of the F.R.E.E. Synagogue said at a press conference Tuesday. “The message is that we will stand stronger and build even stronger and greater and this way bring unity to our community, unity to our lives and allow each of us to prosper.” 

Shahid Hussain seen in a Feb. 1 booking photo. 

Shahid Hussain seen in a Feb. 1 booking photo. 

The incidents came days after Holocaust Remembrance Day and as antisemitism is on the rise across the country. After Hussain’s arrest, a Jewish man was threatened while on his way to synagogue by several men in a vehicle who then proceeded to break a car window. Police are still investigating. 

“We always have to shine a light on hate. And we should never give any room for any of us to hide from what hateful people do,” Brown said. “It is the lesson learned through history that when hate is left unchecked, left to prosper, and fear sets in to those victimized by hate, hate flourishes. You can put hate in its rightful place. All of us standing here shining a bright, bright light on hateful acts.” 

During an arraignment hearing Tuesday, Judge Barbara Dawkins set bond at $250,000. If Hussain is released, the judge ordered him to stay away from Jewish institutions. His next court date is Feb. 7.

Rabbi Levi Notik of the F.R.E.E. Synagogue in Chicago says a swastika was spray-painted on the side of the building over the weekend. F.R.E.E. stands for Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe. 

Rabbi Levi Notik of the F.R.E.E. Synagogue in Chicago says a swastika was spray-painted on the side of the building over the weekend. F.R.E.E. stands for Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe. 
(Google Maps)

“Hate has no place in this neighborhood and bigotry will not be tolerated,” 50th Ward Chicago Alderman Debra Silverstein said. “We can only stand strong when everyone feels safe. Safe to practice their religion, safe to pray in synagogues, safe to shop in kosher stores, attend Jewish schools, safe to live our lives. Our diversity is our strength. That means an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us.” 

The crimes Hussain is accused of illustrate a “textbook case of hate,” Dawkins said, noting that though his actions involved no physical violence, he carried out psychological violence by inflicting fear. 

Hussain had been on parole for a 2017 forgery case and 2017 burglary out of DuPage County, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said at the press conference, promising more details soon. 

“I want to reiterate that those who engage in hate will be held accountable. Those who seek to do harm, to destabilize communities, will be held accountable,” Foxx said. “And that accountability doesn’t just start here in the community, but in the courtroom, and it will be done because of the work, the collaborative effort of the community, our elected officials, as well as law enforcement.” 

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The Sun Times reported that Hussain was most recently sentenced in September to 12 months of probation after pleading guilty to a stalking charge. He pleaded guilty in 2017 to a felony count of forgery and was sentenced to two years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On the same day that case ended, the sentence in the 2017 burglary case was amended to a concurrent sentence. 

The defendant also previously pleaded guilty in 2014 to a felony count of aggravated driving under the influence and was sentenced to 90 days in Cook County Jail and 12 months of probation, according to the newspaper. He reportedly repeatedly violated the terms of his probation. 

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