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Article Published: Saturday, May 10, 2003 - 9:13:52 PM PST

Jaywalk tripped up suspect

Pedestrian citation was key lead in arsons

By Jason Kandel
Staff Writer

A pedestrian citation written by West Valley patrol officers was the key to identifying the suspect accused in a series of firebombings at Encino houses of worship, officials said Saturday.

LAPD Officers Jim Marshall and Holly Thomson wrote a citation to arson suspect Farshid Tehrani of Encino at 8 p.m. Tuesday, just hours before he allegedly threw a cinder block through a window at Da'at Jewish Center and set a fire at Valley Beth Shalom.

"If this is the (suspect), then West Valley solved it,' Marshall said. "It's timing. I'm excited like a little kid right now.'

LAPD Cmdr. Michel Moore, the Valley Bureau's second in command, praised the work of his officers.

"As I understand it, this stop by these officers allowed us to start looking at him,' Moore said. "This is characteristic of thousands of other stories of significant and dangerous individuals who are discovered not through some sophisticated crime scene analysis but by simple good police work.'

Deputy Chief Ronald Bergmann, the Valley Bureau's commander, said: "(It) is just another example of outstanding police work that's done in the San Fernando Valley.'

Undercover detectives arrested Tehrani, an Iranian Jew said to be frustrated over financial and other troubles, on Friday in Westwood as he allegedly tried to ignite a trash can near the intersection of Glendon and Kinross avenues. He was being held Saturday in Van Nuys Jail in lieu of $750,000 bail, and is scheduled to be arraigned in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday.

At about 8 p.m. Tuesday, Marshall and Thomson were patrolling Ventura Boulevard near Densmore Avenue.

Marshall said he saw a Middle Eastern man in his 40s with a scraggly beard and glasses run across the street toward a Land Rover dealership, against a red light.

"We stop our car. He immediately stops,' Marshall said. "I asked him, Did you know what you did wrong? He said, 'Yeah, I didn't want to wait for the light. I wanted to look at Land Rovers.' '

Marshall asked for identification. The suspect gave him a driver license that turned out to be suspended, Marshall said.

"I asked him, 'Why are you looking at new cars, if your license is suspended?' '

The suspect told Marshall: "I don't really know. I take the bus down to L.A. I'm in the jewelry district.'

Marshall said at that point he noticed a barbecue lighter sticking out of the man's back pocket and inquired about it.

"What's up with the lighter?'

"He said, 'I smoke ...' and he kind of blows over it.'

Marshall wrote the ticket and moved on.

He and his partner then responded to an emergency call near the Fallbrook Mall. When they arrived, they heard over the radio of an attempted burglary with a window smashed at Da'at Torah in the 15900 block of Ventura Boulevard.

The description of the suspect matched that of Tehrani. At 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Valley Beth Shalom was hit by an arson, just two blocks from where officers wrote the citation for Tehrani.

Detectives from the Anti-Terrorist Division interviewed Marshall on Wednesday and took a copy of the citation, which led to Tehrani being put under surveillance.

In addition to attacks on Valley Beth Shalom and Da'at Torah Center, arson attacks also have occurred at The Iranian Synagogue on Ventura Boulevard, the Baha'i community center on Genesta Avenue and at a Presbyterian church on Balboa Boulevard.

No injuries have been reported in any of the fires, which caused damage of $10,000 to $20,000 at each location.

Tehrani came to the United States from Tehran about 16 years ago and had devoted his life to his family.

Public records show that Tehrani once ran a shop in the heart of the Los Angeles jewelry district called Downtown Jewelry Liquidators. A vendor at the shop said Tehrani sold jewelry there for a while before leaving the business several years ago.

City News Service contributed to this story. Jason Kandel can be reached at (818) 713-3664.

©Copyright 2003, Los Angles Daily News (CA, USA)

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