DEARBORN, Mich. – A man who threatened preschoolers and their parents outside a synagogue in Bloomfield Hills tried to buy a 12-gauge shotgun, a rifle, and a semi-automatic pistol right after the incident and before mooning an Oakland County judge in court, officials said.
Bloomfield Hills threats
Officials said Chokr made antisemitic and racist threats to parents, young children, and security workers in the preschool parking lot while arguing about the support of Israel.
Temple Bath El security members and Bloomfield Township police were called to the synagogue. Officers pulled Chokr over as he exited the parking lot and confirmed his identity.
He was arrested later and charged with two counts of ethnic intimidation.
“Antisemitic and racist threats, or ethnic intimidation of any kind, will not be tolerated in our community, and every such incident will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
Chokr was taken to the Oakland County Jail.
Traffic stop controversy
Community members, including Temple Bath El Rabbi Mark Miller, said they wondered why Chokr wasn’t immediately arrested during the traffic stop.
“He said on video to the police officers, ‘I’m going to another synagogue,’ and it felt very threatening, and I guess I can’t comment on how they work behind the scenes, but it looked very bad,” Miller said.
Chokr posted an Instagram video of himself screaming at people outside of the synagogue and asking if they support Israel. He shouted, “Shame on you” to those who said yes.
“This was terrorizing for a lot of us who were here,” Miller said.
Chokr also recorded a video of the traffic stop.
Bloomfield Township police Chief John Gallagher said Chokr wasn’t immediately taken into custody because these types of cases can be tough to prove.
“At the time, we did not have the information to meet the threshold of ethnic intimidation, and at that time, we needed to further investigate,” Gallagher said. “Part of that was making sure we positively identified the subject that was driving the van.”
Once police saw Chokr’s Instagram post, they felt they had enough information to make the arrest, Gallagher said.
Outburst during arraignment
When Chokr learned Monday that his bond had been set for $1 million and that he would be heavily restricted if bail was posted, he began screaming at the judge.
Chokr also swore when he learned his social media use would be restricted, if he was released on bond. He claimed his arrest violates his freedom of speech.
“Remember: The way you’re judging me, God will judge you the same way,” Chokr said during the proceedings.
He also showed the court his middle finger and screamed, “yes, I did” when told that would go on the record.
His bond was revoked after an emergency bond hearing on separate charges. Chokr removed his pants, turned around, and mooned the judge during the proceedings.
“Now he has removed his pants to show the court his backside,” Wayne County 3rd District Court Judge Regina Thomas said.
Since Chokr’s bond was revoked in Wayne County, if he is released from custody in Oakland County after paying his $1 million bond, he will immediately be transferred into custody in Wayne County.
He is expected to return to court in two weeks.
Family asks for mental health support
Family members said Chokr went on a hunger strike behind bars was refusing to eat, as of Dec. 8.
His brother says mental health struggles are at the root of Chokr’s recent behavior and court outbursts.
“He did not do things that were right when he went to Temple Beth El,” his brother said. “That’s not right. That was wrong.”
Chokr’s brother claims the charges have no merit, including those from a 2020 assault charge that stemmed from an angry outburst at the Islamic Center of America on Ford Road in Dearborn. He was accused of assaulting a woman while she volunteered at the center.
After that incident, Dearborn police chased him down the street while he carried a gun, according to court records.
The brother said Chokr started struggling with mental health issues during the COVID pandemic.
“Coronavirus came -- he got sick and the PTSD from losing his business,” his brother said. “All this took him to a different mental state of mind, and this is when his mental health crisis started.”
He said his brother needs mental health support, not a jail cell.
“Every time he has a mental health episode, they’ll throw him behind bars, and when we asked to be petitioned to get mental health treatment, they never ever helped us or reached out,” he said. “They left us crying in our houses.”
Attempted gun purchase
On Thursday (Dec. 15), a criminal complaint was filed accusing Chokr of lying on a form while trying to buy guns right after the incident in Bloomfield Hills.
An FBI agent says in the complaint that Chokr went to Dearborn Outdoors -- a federal firearm licensee -- on Century Drive to look at and ask about several guns. Around noon Dec. 2, he filled out an electronic ATF form to try to acquire multiple firearms, according to authorities.
While filling out the form, Chokr answered “no” to the question asking whether he was under indictment or information in any court for a felony or crime that could imprison him for more than a year. He also answered “no” to a question asking whether he had ever been convicted in any court of a felony or crime that could have imprisoned him for more than a year.
Records show Chokr was charged in an information with assault with a dangerous weapon on Aug. 27, 2020, in 3rd Judicial Circuit Court of Michigan. A jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 21, 2023, and he faces up to four years in prison, if convicted.
He was also convicted of felony stealing or retaining a financial transaction device without consent in Livingston County in 2017, according to court records.
Chokr certified that the information he submitted on the form was true, and that he understood anyone who answered “yes” to the above questions was not allowed to possess or receive a gun, the criminal complaint says.
He was trying to buy a Landor Arms 12-gauge shotgun, a Del-ton model DTI-15 5.56 mm rifle, and a Glock model 19 Gen 4 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, officials said.
His purchase was denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The criminal complaint argues there’s probable cause to charge Chokr with lying on a federal firearms form.
He falsely claimed there were no felony charges pending against him and that he had not been previously convicted of a felony, according to records.
Chokr faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, if convicted.