On the morning of April 14, 2011, LAPD Hollywood area patrol officers received a radio call for a “burglary investigation” at the Temple Israel of Hollywood, a large complex comprised of a synagogue/worship center, a K–12 campus, and offices located in the 7300 block of Hollywood Boulevard. The responding officers were directed to the second floor of the elementary school building where they observed that a classroom had been ransacked, and that a possible incendiary device had been placed in the center of the room. The officers extinguished the burning candle, secured the room and requested the response of LAFD resources, which included Light Force 27 and A-Unit 2.
The arson investigators (A-Unit 2) arrived and met with the police officers and firefighters assigned to Light Force 27. After being briefed and examining the classroom, the investigators contacted the Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section (ACTS) office and made a request for additional investigative resources. This request resulted in notifications to the Los Angeles House of Worship Task Force agencies, which includes LAFD ACTS investigators, LAPD Major Crimes – Criminal Conspiracy Section (CCS) detectives and an ATF special agent. An ACTS investigator was designated as the lead investigator and teamed with a CCS detective, with the A-Unit investigators, the ACTS forensic photographer and an LAPD latent prints specialist providing assistance in processing the scene.
The investigation revealed that a male suspect had scaled a perimeter fence and then climbed onto the first floor roof of the school building in order to gain access to the classroom window where he made entry. He ransacked the classroom and constructed an incendiary delay device using a burning candle and some other items found within the room. The suspect then took school property and left the location, but was briefly confronted by a school volunteer as he climbed over the fence. The latent print specialist was able to develop latent prints from the window sill (point of entry) and the investigators found that the security surveillance system had recorded video of the suspect walking on the grounds as he left the school building and scaled the fence.
A LAPD crime alert, which included an artist’s sketch and a poor quality photo of the suspect obtained from the video, was generated by Hollywood burglary detectives. Investigators provided a copy of the crime alert to the LAFD PIO, and the suspect’s images were released to the media that same date and broadcast in local news coverage of the incident.
The lead arson investigator later received information that the Fresh and Easy market, located in the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard, had also been burglarized on the early morning of April 14, 2011. LAPD Hollywood area officers had investigated the burglary and determined that the store’s video surveillance system had captured images of the suspect walking through the back rooms of the store. The officers recognized the that suspect in the video was possibly the same individual (suspect) being sought by investigators for the Hollywood Synagogue attempt arson/burglary.
On the night of April 18, 2011, A-Unit 2 investigators were dispatched to the 2600 block of Coldwater Canyon Drive, within the Beverly Ridge Terrace gated community, to investigate a vehicle fire that occurred at a construction site, at the request of Engine 108. The investigators determined that an unknown suspect had entered a fenced construction site located within a residential neighborhood, ransacked the construction trailer and then intentionally burned a contractor’s flatbed truck and a chair. The arson investigators subsequently searched the construction site and located evidence of several additional fires that had self-extinguished prior to the arrival of firefighters. In all, the suspect had set a total of seven separate fires at the site, including fires that had been set using firebombs (Molotov cocktails) inside the two structures: a 22,000 square foot dwelling in the framing stages of construction and a 3,500 square foot dwelling that was framed and wrapped.
After the arson investigators cleared the fire scene, they encountered LAPD West Los Angeles area patrol officers on the street nearby. The investigators spoke with the officers and learned that they had detained a possible residential burglary suspect. The investigators briefly questioned the suspect regarding his identity and reason for being in the area. The suspect provided a name and claimed to be an electrician hired to work at one of the construction sites in the area. The investigators then left the location as the police officers continued their investigation.
On the morning of April 19, 2011, LAPD contacted the arson investigators and advised that finger print lifts obtained from the synagogue incident had been matched to an individual named Dmitriy Sheyko, who had been arrested by LAPD West Los Angeles area officers the previous night for residential burglary. Investigators checked Sheyko’s booking photo and determined that it was that of the burglary suspect encountered near the construction site the previous night, and closely resembled the video images and poor quality photos of the synagogue arson suspect.
The two lead LAFD arson investigators and the CCS detective responded to the LAPD Van Nuys jail, where they met with Sheyko in an interview room. Sheyko waived his Miranda rights and agreed to provide an interview, which was videotaped. Sheyko initially denied involvement, but then admitted to the Fresh and Easy burglary, the Temple Israel of Hollywood burglary and attempt arson, and to constructing Molotov cocktails and intentionally setting seven separate fires at the Coldwater Canyon construction site. Sheyko declined a request to provide a handwritten statement, but provided drawings of the fire scenes, complete with sketches of the incendiary devices he had constructed.
The arson investigators and LAPD West L.A. detective subsequently presented the various burglary and arson related cases to Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney, assigned to the D.A.’s Office Arson Unit, who filed 19 felony counts. Sheyko was held-to-answer at preliminary hearing, and later pled “not guilty by reason of insanity” to all counts, which resulted in a court trial to decide the sanity phase. The court relied heavily upon the videotaped interview in deciding Sheyko’s competency and ruled him sane at the time of his crimes. In December of 2013, the judge sentenced Sheyko to 10 years in state prison.