California

Wig-snatcher who targeted Orthodox Jews accused of hate crimes, L.A. police say

Los Angeles police on Wednesday released security camera photos of a man suspected of yanking wigs off three Orthodox Jewish women in North Hollywood, California, in separate incidents in September and November. On Thursday, police arrested Steven Szwet, 33, on suspicion of battery in the incidents.
Los Angeles police on Wednesday released security camera photos of a man suspected of yanking wigs off three Orthodox Jewish women in North Hollywood, California, in separate incidents in September and November. On Thursday, police arrested Steven Szwet, 33, on suspicion of battery in the incidents. Los Angeles Police Department

On Tuesday, a man crept up behind a 58-year-old woman loading musical equipment into a vehicle in North Hollywood, California, then yanked her wig off her head, reported the Los Angeles Police Department.

He threw it on the sidewalk and sarcastically said, “Oh, I’m sorry,” before walking away, police wrote in a press release.

Investigators wrote in the release that they believe the same man also grabbed the wigs of two other Orthodox Jewish women in the area in September.

On Thursday, LAPD detectives arrested Steven Szwet, 33, on suspicion of battery and possible hate crimes in connection with the incidents, reported the Los Angeles Daily News.

Investigators suspect Szwet targeted the women for their faith, police wrote. Wigs, scarves and hats are typically worn by Orthodox Jewish women as a symbol of modesty.

“This is something for a Jewish woman which is so personal,” said Rabbi Nachman Abend with Chabad of North Hollywood, reported KCAL. “This wig or this hair covering is something to them which is so important. To rip that off somebody’s head is crossing all lines and I’m really glad the LAPD considered this a hate crime.”

On Sept. 19, the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, a man yanked the wig off an 80-year-old woman walking on a North Hollywood street, then smiled and handed it back to her before walking away, police wrote.

Later that day, the same man tried to pull the wig off a 36-year-old woman on a nearby street, police wrote.

Following the similar incident on Tuesday, Los Angeles police on Wednesday released information on the attacks with photos of the suspect.

Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise across the nation for the past two years, with the Oct. 27 slaying of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, reported the Los Angeles Times.

In 2017, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents targeting Jews in the United States, an increase from 1,267 in 2016, reported The Associated Press.

11 people were killed and multiple people were injured in a shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Oct. 27. Police said the suspect is in custody.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments