MYRLTE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Shock and confusion is what a Myrtle Beach rabbi felt when he learned his synagogue had allegedly been threatened by a man who wanted to carry out an attack "in the spirit of Dylann Roof."
"I'm serving this community for 15 years; we never had an incident like that," said Rabbi Avi Perets of the Temple Emanu-El Synagogue in Myrtle Beach.
For Rabbi Avi Perets, one of the hardest parts about knowing about the alleged threat made toward the synagogue made by 29-year-old Benjamin McDowell was not being able to tell anybody, as he respected the FBI needing time to build its case and make an arrest.
However, after investigators arrested McDowell in the afternoon of Feb. 15 at the Hampton Inn at Broadway at the Beach - finding ammunition and a gun on him - those who see Temple Emanu-El as a second home came face-to-face with what could have been.
"It was shocking to hear that, particularly because we never met this guy," Perets said.
The more people who found out, the more the rabbi's phone rang with calls and messages of love and support. However, it was what he was able to see with his own eyes over the weekend that he found truly remarkable - Temple Emanu-El welcoming numbers of parishioners it has never seen before.
"They showed that, you know, people like Benjamin McDowell can't stop us," Perets said.
Though caught off guard and even frightened, Perets and everyone at Temple Emanu-El put their faith and trust in investigators, resting assured that everything would be OK.
"I can't thank the police department and the FBI enough for what they've done," he said.
While McDowell remains innocent until proven guilty, he is due back in the federal court house Tuesday.