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Hate crime questioned as rabbi laid to rest

Joseph Raksin, 61, gunned down Saturday morning

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Dozens of people gathered on a northeast Miami-Dade County block Sunday to remember Joseph Raksin, the 61-year old rabbi gunned down Saturday morning.

The group of mostly Orthodox Jews chanted prayers and marched behind a hearse carrying the remains of Raksin.

"The middle of broad daylight, 9 a.m. in the morning, walking to synagogue on your holy day of Sabbath and just being killed in the middle of the street -- this was a senseless act of murder and there's no other way to describe that," Jeb Handwerger told Local 10 News.

Raksin, a New York resident, was in South Florida to visit family members but decided to walk to a nearby synagogue Saturday when two men approached.

Investigators said they believe it was a botched attempted robbery that ended with Raksin being fatally shot.

"We don't carry money on Saturday," Jennifer Lehrfield said.

She said the holy Sabbath day is a day in which valuables including watches and money are left behind.

"This was a senseless act of murder and there's no other way to describe that," Lehrfield said.

As with Jewish custom, Raksin's body was prepared for burial quickly after his death.

Police have made no arrests.

"Why did it happen? There's no reason. This place is not rich," one resident said.

The shooting happened at the intersection of Northeast 175th Street and Northeast Eighth Court near the border of North Miami Beach. The corner is now lined with candles and roses near the spot where the man lost his life.

Detectives don't have any indication the incident was a hate crime, but Miami-Dade police are still investigating.

The shots were fired about 9 a.m. Saturday. Several witnesses gave police a glimpse of what they saw. However, the descriptions given to police of the two gunmen were vague.

Someone told police they saw one man walking toward the rabbi and the other man on a bicycle. There was a brief altercation before the gunfire.

Police said one of the men was wearing a yellow shirt.

Investigators don't have any indication the incident was a hate crime, but residents said they aren't convinced, pointing to the synagogue just two blocks away that was vandalized with hurtful message more than a week ago.

Residents in the area said they have had enough.

"There's one thing we are starting to carry around here and that's guns," one resident said. "So if you come here to pull this kind of nonsense, you might just be buying yourself a one-way ticket to hell."

About the Authors:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."