The Nov. 14 Saugus High School shooting, the shootout in New Jersey and even the reported sighting of a man dressed like the Grim Reaper near a local synagogue, prompted sheriff’s Capt. Robert Lewis to invite synagogue leaders for a sit-down chat Thursday to discuss concerns and reassure them that safety remains his top priority.
At the end of Thursday’s talk was the scheduling of more talks.
“We want overall safety for their facilities,” Lewis said, noting he and leaders from Congregation Beth Shalom on Centre Pointe Parkway plan to meet again next week.
Staffers at Beth Shalom’s preschool called the sheriff’s station one day recently when they spotted a hooded man dressed in a black Grim Reaper cloak near the preschool.
“I give kudos to the staff for calling us,” Lewis said. “It’s a preschool. What if we didn’t show up? Then those kids are going to grow up and in 10, maybe 15 years, think we didn’t care.”
“When I called them, I wanted to let them know that we are really here to support them,” he said.
The shooting at Saugus High School that left three students, including the shooter, dead and Tuesday’s shootout near the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, that left a police detective and three civilians dead, convinced Lewis that now was a good time to talk.
“My concern was the totality of all these things,” he said, noting also that Hanukkah begins soon.
“I thought, ‘What if we have a copycat’ situation here?” Lewis said, referring to the Jersey shooting.
Thursday’s talk with Santa Clarita Valley’s top cop was well-received by synagogue leaders.
“My concern is for the safety and security of my community,” Rabbi Jay Siegel said late Thursday afternoon.
“We are not particularly concerned about our holidays,” he said. “We just want to ensure safety and security.”
About the “see something, say something” response by preschool staffers at Beth Shalom to report a suspicious person, Siegel said: “We do have a protocol for the preschool that we follow.”
With regards to reports of a man dressed in a hooded black cloak, deputies arrested an 18-year-old student this week on suspicion of loitering where children are present. The man was allegedly dressed in a hooded black cloak near Mountainview Elementary School.
On Twitter: @jamesarthurholt