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Memphis police shoot suspect who fired shots at Jewish school, tried to break in

Police in Memphis, Tennessee said Monday that officers had shot a man after he fired a weapon outside a Jewish school and tried to break inside.

The Memphis Police Department said it had received a call at around 12:20 p.m. about a suspect armed with a handgun outside the Margolin Hebrew Academy.

A Jewish security group said the suspect was Jewish and that the attempted attack appeared to be personal. Memphis police would not confirm the claims, or reports saying the man had been killed.

The suspect, a white male, attempted to enter the school but was unable to gain access to the building due to its security doors, police said.

“Thankfully, that school had a great safety procedure and process in place and avoided anyone being harmed or injured at that scene,” said Assistant Police Chief Don Crowe.

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He fired his weapon several times while outside the school, without causing injuries, then fled the scene in a maroon pickup truck, police said in a statement.

Police issued a broadcast about the vehicle, which officers spotted soon after in the adjacent city of Bartlett.

When officers stopped the vehicle, the suspect exited with a handgun. A Memphis Police Department officer fired at the suspect, hitting him.

The suspect was transported to a hospital in critical condition, and the attempted attack is under investigation, police said.

A police spokesperson said officers had “mitigated a potential mass shooting situation.” It wasn’t immediately clear if the school as in session.

When asked if law enforcement believe the shooting was a hate crime, Crowe said it was “way too early” to make that determination and officers were still on the scene and collecting information.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations is now handling the case.

The suspect was a member of the Jewish community and the incident appeared personal in nature, according to a spokesperson for the Secure Community Network, an organization that coordinates security for Jewish institutions nationwide.

The day school is still on summer break. But there were school personnel including construction workers during the shooting, and the building immediately went into lockdown, according to Michael Masters, CEO of the Secure Community Network. All schools in the Memphis-Shelby County Schools district were also put on a precautionary lockdown, which was lifted at 2 p.m.

US House Representative Seve Cohen, whose district includes Memphis, said in a statement that he was “shocked” to hear about the incident at the school and noted that acts of “violent antisemitism” are on the rise across the country.”

The Margolin Hebrew Academy is an Orthodox school serving students from preschool through the 12th grade, according to its website.

US Jewish institutions have invested heavily in security measures in recent years as antisemitism has soared in the US, and after a series of deadly attacks on Jews.

Security experts have said basic measures, such as locked, reinforced doors, can thwart attempted attacks. Locked doors prevented a neo-Nazi from shooting worshipers at a synagogue in Halle, Germany, in 2019.

The attempted Memphis shooting came as a jury deliberated the fate of a shooter who massacred 11 Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2018, the deadliest attack against Jews in US history.

JTA and AP contributed to this story.