Dearborn man charged with ethnic intimidation at Bloomfield Township synagogue, preschool

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 7, 2022


BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — A man from Dearborn has been charged with two counts of ethnic intimidation for allegedly making antisemitic threats at Temple Beth El, a synagogue and preschool for Jewish students in Bloomfield Township.

Hassan Yehia Chokr, 35, was arraigned at noon Dec. 5 at the 48th District Court in front of Magistrate Julie Nelson-Klein. His bond was set at $1 million.

The charges stem from a Dec. 2 incident in the parking lot of Temple Beth El.

According to reports, security at Temple Beth El was alerted about a man driving through the parking lot of the Temple Beth El preschool and allegedly “arguing about the support of Israel.”

Temple Beth El security responded to the scene, and at 8:57 a.m. Bloomfield Township police received a call from the security director at Temple Beth El.

“A man in a white van was asking people outside if they supported Israel and why, and yelling profanities,” said Officer Nick Soley, of the Bloomfield Township Police Department.

Bloomfield Township officers responded to the scene at around 9 a.m., while still on the 911 call, and officers located the subject as he exited the temple’s parking lot.

Police conducted a traffic stop and identified the man as Chokr.

“Our officers accomplished the goal of identifying the subject while using de-escalation techniques to diffuse the subject,” Soley explained.

Additional township officers arrived on scene and began collecting initial witness statements.

Chokr was later released from the scene, pending further investigation, and police said he was advised not to return to Temple Beth El.

“We didn’t have enough evidence at that time to effect an arrest,” Soley said. “We are unable to comment on specific investigative techniques, but we were able to assess that subsequent to the traffic stop the subject would not be an imminent threat to the community.”

The Bloomfield Township Police Department then immediately began an “extensive investigation” into the actions and behaviors of Chokr during the incident, Soley explained, working “around the clock” in conjunction with local and regional partners to continue the investigation. He said the investigation is ongoing.

Soley said there has been widespread misinformation surrounding the incident at Temple Beth El and what the subject said, adding that Bloomfield Township police are aggressively investigating the incident in partnership with multiple law enforcement agencies.

According to reports, Chokr repeatedly shouted the “N-word” at Temple Beth El security when he was asked to leave.

Witnesses and victims from the preschool and synagogue told police they felt “scared and threatened” during the incident, telling police Chokr allegedly shouted, “Do you support Israel?” “How dare you?” “You are going to pay,” “F--- Israel,” and “F--- the Jews,” according to reports.

Soley said, another witness statement advised that Chokr continued to say the “N-word” and threatened they “were going to die.”

“The Bloomfield Township Police Department stands with our Jewish community, and we condemn the language that was used,” Soley said.

On Dec. 3, between 8 and 9 a.m., Chokr was taken into custody by the Dearborn Police Department on an unrelated matter. Dearborn police executed a search warrant on his residence.

At around noon Dec. 4, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald issued Chokr a two-count warrant on two felony charges of ethnic intimidation — based on evidence that was discovered by Bloomfield Township police several hours after the initial stop.

The charges, according to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, stemmed from “anti-semetic and racist threats made to parents, young children and security personnel” at the preschool and synagogue.

“Anti-semitic and racist threats or ethnic intimidation of any kind, will not be tolerated in our community, and every such incident will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” McDonald said in a statement. “Our office created Oakland County’s first Hate Crimes Unit a little over a year ago to give us the resources needed to call out, investigate and prosecute these serious crimes.”

At around 12:20 p.m. Dec. 4, the Bloomfield Township Police Department arrested Chokr and took him into custody on charges related to the incident at Temple Beth El. He was lodged at the Oakland County Jail at press time. A probable cause hearing was scheduled for Dec. 15, after press time.

Chokr did not have an attorney on file for the Temple Beth El incident at press time.

In response to news that Chokr was charged, The Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit released a statement.

“We are extremely grateful that a felony warrant for the individual was issued for these heinous actions and that he is now in police custody. We thank the Bloomfield Township Police, the County Prosecutor’s Office, and all the law enforcement entities that have worked on this for their diligence and commitment to the security of our community. We will remain in close contact with our local authorities as the situation unfolds. In the meantime, our Jewish Community Security organization, working in partnership with law enforcement, will continue to remain active and vigilant, as always. This incident is a reminder of the importance of awareness: If you see something, say something. We ask community members to report incidents as soon as you witness them, first to your local law enforcement agency and then to JCSI @ Finally, we want to acknowledge and thank our friends and colleagues at Temple Beth El for their steady response, as well as congregational leaders across Jewish Detroit. Together, we remain committed to maintaining the strength and richness of our Jewish communal life in the face of antisemitism and hate.”

Following the Temple Beth El incident, Soley said Wayne County filed for an emergency bond hearing for Chokr stemming from a criminal charge in 2020.

“That case stemmed from a 2020 criminal charge out of Wayne County, where he was charged with five counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of resting and arresting a police officer. At that time, in 2020, he was given a $10,000 personal recognition bond — which means he was released without bond. When this incident occurred, Wayne County filed for an emergency bond hearing,” he explained.

During a Dec. 5 virtual emergency bond motion hearing related to the 2020 Wayne County case, Chokr was caught on camera mooning a judge in Wayne County.

During the emergency bond hearing, Wayne County Judge Regina Thomas revoked Chokr’s bond.

“What that means is if he were to somehow make his $1 million bond on our case, he would be remanded to the Wayne County jail on the 2020 case he faces there,” Soley added.

Bloomfield Township Supervisor Dani Walsh said there has been an exponential rise in mental illness and hate in the nation, most recently the incident occurring at Temple Beth El.

“A man came to the township on Friday morning to spew hate and fear into our Jewish community as people took their young children to school. The antisemetic and racial rantings of the suspect on his instagram post was offensive and repulsive,” Walsh said in a Dec. 8 statement.

Walsh said the Jewish Federation and Jewish community leaders in the township have had an ongoing dialogue to discuss this incident and find ways that the township can improve and protect the community going forward.

“This will not be the end of the dialogue. We are doing a top to bottom departmental review of this incident and looking for ways to improve,” Walsh said in a statement.

The Bloomfield Township Police Department said it will continue to provide extra patrol at Temple Beth El.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter said he has watched with dismay as antisemitic hate speech, harassment and vandalism have been emerging with alarming frequency.

Antisemitic incidents reported to the Anti-Defamation League reached an all-time high of 2,717 in the United States last year, according to the ADL.

“The racist and antisemitic rhetoric on social media and in political discourse has made not only those mediums toxic and frightening places, but has extended beyond the online world into the everyday lives of our friends and neighbors in our communities,” Coulter said in a statement. “This is unacceptable. Hate can never be normalized. Leaders and all decent people have a duty to call it out and condemn it whenever it occurs.”

Coulter said he’s an “enthusiastic supporter” of the #ShineALight campaign, a national initiative started two years ago to raise awareness about the dangers of antisemitism as Jews and Jewish institutions face rising cases of harassment, hate speech and violence.

Anyone that may have witnessed the incident at Temple Beth El or who has information for the police is asked to call (248) 433-7755.