A man taken into custody after shots were fired outside an Albany, New York, synagogue hours before a Hanukkah observance was set to begin told investigators “events in the Middle East” have impacted him, a federal law enforcement official said in court documents.

Mufid Fawaz Alkhader, 28, of Schenectady, faces a charge of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, according to a criminal complaint filed in US District Court for the Northern District of New York.

He had an initial court appearance Friday morning and was detained pending trial after waiving his right to a detention hearing, the US Department of Justice said in a news release.

CNN has reached out to his defense attorney for comment.

Alkhader faces up to 15 years in prison, up to three years of post-imprisonment supervised release and a maximum fine of $250,000.

The incident comes as Jews, Muslims, Palestinians and others in the US say they are growing more fearful of hate-motivated attacks while war between Israel and Hamas continues in the Middle East. Recent cases like the death of a Jewish protester during a rally in Southern California and the shooting of three Palestinian college students in Vermont highlight the mounting tensions.

Alkhader allegedly stood outside of Temple Israel “possessing a Kel-Tec KS7 12 gauge pump shot gun” and then “fired two rounds” into the air Thursday afternoon, according to the criminal complaint.

After the shots were fired, the suspect fled a few hundred yards from the parking lot and was confronted by a person in a vehicle, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said Thursday. The suspect told the man in the vehicle he felt victimized, Hawkins said.

The suspect then dropped the shotgun and police took him into custody, Hawkins said. Based on the information police have, the man acted alone and there was no broader threat to the community, the chief added.

During his interview with law enforcement, Alkhader “said a variety of things,” including “that events in the Middle East have impacted him,” and that he “regularly uses marijuana,” the law enforcement official said in the complaint.

Ultimately authorities found probable cause to conclude that Alkhader “knowing that he was an unlawful user of a controlled substance (marijuana)… did knowingly possess a firearm,” the complaint said.

The complaint also states the gun was manufactured outside the state and has “therefore traveled in interstate commerce.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul directed state police and the National Guard to increase Hanukkah patrols following the incident.

Any act of antisemitism would be unacceptable, “and undermining the public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” Hochul said in a news conference Thursday. “As New Yorkers, this is not who we are. This must stop. We reject hate, antisemitism, Islamophobia all hate crimes must stop and all violence in every form must cease.”

CNN’s Sabrina Shulman, John Miller and Mark Morales contributed to this report.

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2023-12-08T01:27:43Z dg43tfdfdgfd