Shooter of two Jewish men agrees to plead guilty to hate crimes

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.

“These horrific acts — motivated by poisonous, antisemitic beliefs — shocked our community,” U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada said in a news release. “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.”

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

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 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.

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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