Cape Coral police Chief Anthony Sizemore said that the weekend attack at a local Chabad House was a “despicable act” that he takes personally, and is being investigated as a hate crime.
Cape Coral police Chief Anthony Sizemore said during a press conference Monday that the weekend attack at a local Chabad House was a “despicable act” that he takes personally, and that his department is investigating the incident as a hate crime.
“This was a despicable act, in which an individual committed vandalism, attempted burglary, and struck fear in the hearts of not only those present at the Chabad center, but the Jewish community of Southwest Florida and the entire community,” Sizemore said. “And hate crimes are on the rise, particularly attacks on Jewish communities and Jewish centers. And it happened here. We need to acknowledge that.”
Sizemore said he and Labkowski are close, and that he’s participated personally at Chabad over the last decade. Sizemore, who said the ordeal has become “personal” for him, said he spoke with Rabbi Yossi Labkowski personally to let him know the department is doing all it can to bring justice.
“Rabbi Yossi and his family are valued members of our diverse, vibrant, and resilient community,” Sizemore said. “And this disgusting act will not take away from that. (We all) stand in solidarity with Chabad, and we stand against any time of hate crime in our community.”
“It’s a hate crime. Until we can determine different you go in at the highest level. If we’re not naïve to the national trends, as I spoke about before the growth in the size of Cape Coral, and we have to treat it as such,” he said. “I’m saddened and I’m shocked and I’m outraged that it happened in Cape Coral. But surprised, I’m not, because of those statistics that I gave you. We are large city in a very large state. And to think that we’re immune to things that happen on a national scale … that’s just naïve to think that we have a lot of the same societal problems that you see on the national news they happen here. So pretty much anything you could insert into the narrative that’s happening nationally does occur here. The key is that we have to be prepared, trained and ready to work hard for the community to do that.”
Rabbi Labkowski wanted to send a message to the community on behalf of Chabad of Cape Coral and its members: “We’re not going to be afraid. And we’re going to heighten security to ensure this doesn’t happen again. This person has a lot of hate, and we have to combat hate with love and kindness. And the more that we increase in kindness to our friends and our neighbors, the more kindness spreads, and people become kinder people. Hopefully, this will bring the community together and get rid of this hate.”
The incident unfolded as davening was finishing up on Shabbos afternoon when shliach Rabbi Yossi Labkowski heard a loud noise by the front door. The noise was so loud some occupants first thought it sounded like shooting, but realized with relief there were no bullets. On closer inspection, they realized someone was aggressively throwing bricks into the glass doors at the entrance of the Chabad Center, trying to get in.
Miraculously, the door he was trying to break was covered in impact-resistant glass and was able to hold him off, despite his efforts. After not being able to get into the shul, the attacker took the bricks and threw them at Rabbi Labkowski’s car instead, shattering the front windshield and damaging the passenger side door. It was noticed later that the man also knocked over a large painting of a Menorah in the parking lot. Defeated, the man got into his car and took off. Local authorities are still looking for the perpetrator.
“It’s only a car that can be replaced. Baruch Hashem nobody was injured and nobody got hurt,” Rabbi Labkowski shares.
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