Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Drive-by shooter of two LA Jewish men to plead guilty to hate crimes

Jaime Tran will serve 35 to 40 years for back-to-back attacks in Pico-Robertson

The mentally ill man accused of shooting two Jewish men as they left synagogue in Los Angeles 15 months ago will plead guilty to federal hate crimes, the Justice Department announced Tuesday, averting a trial where he could have been sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors say that Jaime Tran, 29, opened fire from his car in two separate incidents on consecutive days in Pico-Robertson, a heavily Orthodox neighborhood on LA’s Westside. Both men sustained minor injuries.

Tran, whose trial was scheduled to begin June 25, will instead 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 violent crime. He will face 35 to 40 years in prison, according to the terms of the plea agreement, which prosecutors said would be finalized in court in “the coming weeks.”

“The defendant’s hatred led him to plan the murder of two innocent victims simply because he believed they were practicing their Jewish faith,” Krysti Hawkins, acting assistant director of the FBI’s LA office, said in a news release. “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.”

Tran’s former classmates at UCLA’s School of Dentistry said that he espoused antisemitic conspiracy theories in a series of emails sent between August and December of 2022. One accused Persian Jews of inventing COVID-19 to increase prejudice against Asians like him. He attached a picture of a flier blaming Jews for the pandemic.

He also texted several threats to one Persian Jewish classmate, including, “Burn in an oven chamber you bitch Jew.”

Three months later, according to the authorities, on Feb. 15, 2023, Tran shot a man who was walking home from morning prayers on a side street, then sped off. Police originally said there was no reason to suspect antisemitism as a motive.

Less than 24 hours later, another Orthodox man returning from services was shot less than two blocks away from the first shooting.

Guy Taieb, the second victim, told me at the time that he was walking home from the Pinto Center, a French-Moroccan synagogue, when a sedan pulled up alongside him. The driver was wearing a black mask, Taieb said, and did not say anything before pulling out a gun and opening fire.

“He was looking for Jewish people for sure,” Taieb said at the time.

The similarity to the first incident raised alarm bells among LA’s Jewish leaders, but police and Jewish security groups at first publicly maintained that the two shootings were unrelated and that antisemitism did not appear to be a factor.

Meanwhile, the FBI were tracking Tran’s car. He was arrested in Riverside County, about 130 miles east of where the attacks occurred, the evening of the second shooting. He had a handgun and an assault rifle in his car, authorities said.

On Tuesday, prosecutors said that because Tran’s history of mental illness prevented him from legally buying a gun, he had asked someone in Phoenix to purchase the two weapons for him.

According to court documents, Tran told authorities last February that he looked for Jews by searching kosher restaurants on Yelp, and that he identified his victims by their “headgear.” In the plea agreement, he admitted that he intended to kill when he opened fire.

The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles praised law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s office in a statement, saying, “We are pleased that justice will be served.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.