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Security Heightened After Seattle Rampage
Seattle police arrested 30-year-old Pakistani American Navveed Afzal Haq, whose lawyer claims he suffers from a bipolar disorder. Haq allegedly forced his way into the building at gunpoint, claiming he was angry at Israel, before he began shooting. Pamela Waechter, a 58-year-old assistant director of the federation, was killed at the scene.
"We are all aware of what happened in Seattle, and we had some notices out from our counterterrorism people to remind everybody to keep an eye on [Jewish] facilities," said Capt.Benjamin Naish, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department.
He added that district commanders have been in contact with officials at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia, as well as neighborhood synagogues, and have instructed patrol cars to drive by those institutions throughout the day on a regular basis.
Heavy police presence dominated the Israel solidarity rally on Monday night at Shir Ami-Bucks County Jewish Congregation in Newtown. Several police cars were stationed outside the building, and a number of uniformed officers and private security guards were posted inside.
Ira Schwartz, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said that based on recommendations made by police, federation's Crisis Management Team decided to place a security guard in the lobby of the Jewish Community Services Building until further notice.
"We have taken what I believe are appropriate steps," he said. "It is most important for community members to be diligent, watchful and careful."
At a Monday-morning briefing, building employees were told to display photo-i.d. badges while inside the building, and to refrain from holding open the front door for people they didn't know.
Amy Krulik, a spokeswoman for the JCCs, said that since the Seattle shooting, Lower Merion police have been driving through the Kaiserman JCC campus, and uniformed officers have repeatedly stopped by JCC facilities in Philadelphia.
She said that attendance has not dropped at JCC programs, and that the fitness facilities have seen no change in foot traffic from members.
"We have a very comprehensive safety and security plan for all our buildings," she said.
Most institutions seemed reticent to disclose security measures in too much detail.