NEW HAVEN — Representatives from more than a dozen religious and civic groups received training this week from federal law enforcement officials on how to respond should they encounter an active shooter or receive threats. U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly told reporters after the event Monday that it demonstrates the commitment of President Donald Trump’s administration to continue the federal government’s effort to combat hate crimes.
“I don’t think anyone should sense there is a lack of diligence or perseverance of investigation and prosecuting hate crimes in Connecticut and throughout the nation,” Daly said, adding that U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions has encouraged district offices around the country to engage in training and outreach activities like Monday’s event.
Judy Alperin, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New England, said 17 organizations gathered at Congregation Beth El-Kesel Israel for the seminar, which included a showing of the film “The Coming Storm.”
The FBI-produced film is a dramatization of a college campus shooting, and educates viewers on how to respond and react if they are ever part of an active shooter situation. Daly said the program was offered in response to threatening phone calls made to Jewish Community Centers in Connecticut, as well as various threats or hate crimes around the country recently.
“Unfortunately the things we never thought we would have to confront, we are confronting,” said Alperin, whose organization received a bomb threat in January called into its Woodbridge location.
Patricia Ferrick, special agent in charge of the New Haven Office, said that 287 such calls were made between Jan. 3 and March 7, including 220 to Jewish facilities in 43 states.
Emails were also sent, largely from Yahoo and Gmail accounts, and FBI officers in Florida and Georgia last week charged Michael Ron David Kadar, 18, in connection with threats made to Jewish community centers in those states.
Kadar, who has U.S. and Israeli citizenships, remains in Israeli custody, Ferrick said. The threats drew condemnation from several religious and civic leaders at the event, who said the public needs to show solidarity in the face of such acts of hate.
“We will not allow any individual to change the definition of America, and we are here to tell everyone that there is no place of hate, at least in our cities and our state,” he said.
He also said Sikh and other religious minorities have come to the U.S. for its protections for religious freedoms, and violence against a religious facility is a threat against that group’s identity.
Dori Dumas, president of the Greater New Haven NAACP, said Daly’s office has also worked hard to address racial discrimination, and has facilitated conversations between black community leaders and police officials.
“We want to make sure that the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, and others continue to engage and work with the NAACP, the faith community, and the broader community as a partner,” she also said. “We are encouraged and hopeful to see this collaboration continue under the new administration.”
Congressional Democrats raised concerns during Sessions’ confirmation process about his stances on civil rights issues and questioned how vigorously the U.S. Department of Justice would enforce federal hate crimes laws.
A group of 25 Democrats also wrote a letter to Sessions in March, after his confirmation, urging him to use his office to investigate hate crimes after a string of high-profile events that included the bomb threats to the Jewish community centers.
Sessions has vowed to prosecute hate crimes, and Daly said Monday that he told the department that it “will continue to be a priority.”
Daly, an appointee under President Barack Obama who will leave office in October, has said the District of Connecticut office also has a strong civil rights unit that will continue to function.
The unit played a key role in the arrest and prosecution of Ted Hakey, who pleaded guilty last year to firing four rounds from a rifle into the empty mosque next to his home after the November 2015 Paris terrorist attack.
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