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Victim in alleged antisemitic attack in Los Angeles sues two accused assailants

A man at the center of an alleged antisemitic hate crime during a pro-Palestinian protest in Los Angeles last spring has sued the two men accused of attacking him, seeking damages for an assault his lawyers say was a pre-planned hate crime conspiracy.

The lawsuit filed Monday by lawyers for Mher Hagopian describes him as “the victim of a violent, hate-filled antisemitic attack” that occurred as he and his friends were dining outside at a sushi restaurant.

“Hagopian and his fellow diners were victims of an outrageous and violent hate crime targeting Jewish Angelenos that not only physically and emotionally harmed Hagopian and his friends, but also was intended to intimidate all Jewish Angelenos, instilling fear and anxiety in the heart of Los Angeles’ vibrant Jewish community,” according to the complaint.”

Shortly after the May 18 incident, the three law firms representing Hagopian pushed for hate crime prosecution and vowed to do all they can to “use the legal system to prosecute these hate crimes and fight antisemitism wherever it raises its ugly head.”

In September, the Los Angeles County District charged Xavier Pabon, 31, and Samer Jayylusi, 36, with two felony assault counts with hate crime enhancements for attacking two men “because of their religion.”

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One of those men is Hagopian, who isn’t Jewish. Hagopian, a Lebanese-Armenian Christian wedding photographertold the Forward last summer, “They actually asked ‘Who’s Jewish?’ when they came down. I was speaking Arabic, but they didn’t care because I was defending Jews.”

Julie Gerchick, a partner at Glaser Weil, one of the firms filing the suit, said Hagopian, “wants to see justice” and is still distressed by the incident.

“I think it’s hard not to be when you think of the magnitude of what happened, seemingly out of nowhere,” she said.

Cell phone video of a group of men attacking diners at a restaurant in the Beverly Grove neighborhood in Los Angeles, Calif. May 18, 2021

CBSLA obtained cell phone video of a group of men attacking diners at a restaurant in the Beverly Grove neighborhood in Los Angeles, Calif. May 18, 2021 Courtesy of CBSLA

Hagopian and four friends were dining outside Sushi Fumi restaurant in the Beverly Grove shopping and dining district on May 18 when a Jeep and other vehicles adorned with Palestinian flags caravanned through the area.

Israel and Palestine were in the midst of heightened violence in Gaza City, and the men in the caravan shouted “F—- the Jews,” “death to Jews,” “dirty Jews,” and “who is Jewish?” before hurling glass objects at Hagopian and other diners, according to the suit.

Pabon’s lawyer, Mark Kleiman, has denied any antisemitic motives and has accused the diners of instigating the confrontation by hurling glass at the vehicles.

In a video of the incident, it is unclear whether the initial curses are coming from the diners or the caravan.

The new lawsuit claims at least one bottle thrown from the convoy struck Hagopian in the head and another glass object shattered on the sidewalk nearby.

“All hell broke loose,” as Jayylusi, Pabon and the other men “jumped out of their vehicles and converged on the Jewish diners,” according to the lawsuit.

As other diners fled, the attackers targeted Hagopian and his friends, who “truly feared for their lives” as one was thrown to the floor and kicked in the head.

The lawsuit says Hagopian “sprang into action to defend himself from being viciously beaten” by grabbing a nearby stanchion to fight off the attackers.

Jayylusi, Pabon and at least two other men then slammed Hagopian against a vehicle, beat him and sprayed a chemical irritant at him, believed to be pepper spray or mace, for which he was hospitalized.

The 18-page complaint said Hagopian’s “selfless conduct saved others from suffering severe injury” and led to the assailants leaving the scene.

In a news release, lawyer Patricia Glaser of Glaser Weil said the firm brought the lawsuit “to seek redress for the harm suffered by Plaintiff for his selfless and courageous acts.”

Citing recent antisemitic hate crimes across the nation, Gerchik said, “Jews are being targeted and terrorized at an increasing rate. Enough is enough.”

Kleiman, who is representing Pabon in the criminal case, said Tuesday he hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment.

Both Pabon and Jayylusi are out of jail on bond. The next court appearance in the criminal case is scheduled for May 4.

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