Lower Merion Police Seek Witnesses to Alleged Anti-Semitic Threats Outside Kosher Restaurant

It happened outside the Dairy Cafe in Merion.

The Dairy Cafe in Bala Cynwyd (photo via Dairy Cafe on Facebook)

The Dairy Cafe in Bala Cynwyd (photo via Dairy Cafe on Facebook)

Saturday nights along Montgomery Avenue in Merion are usually pretty quiet. But last Saturday night was anything but.

Around 9 p.m., police responded to an incident outside of the Dairy Cafe, a kosher restaurant that opened in March near Hymie’s Delicatessen. A woman told police that after she had been dining at the restaurant with her out-of-town friend and his 5-year-old child, the boy was nearly struck by another vehicle in the parking lot. A verbal altercation ensued between the father and the driver, and the driver allegedly used anti-Semitic language and made threats involving a gun.

Police located the driver that night, and according to Lower Merion officials, he confirmed that there was an argument but denied making any threats or making any reference to Jewish people. The police said that they were unable to find any video surveillance of the incident or any independent witnesses who actually observed what happened. Police sources say that it basically boiled down to a “he said, he said” situation, and the case was shelved.

The story of the incident quickly caught fire on social media, and many Lower Merion residents were outraged at the police response. After all, Lower Merion has one of the largest Jewish populations in the region. It wasn’t long before elected officials got involved, and the case had a newfound urgency.

On Monday, Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian McGuire posted the following online:

Just an update after speaking with township leadership: The police on the scene fully canvassed nearby individuals and businesses in an attempt to locate either independent witnesses or any video surveillance or cell phone camera footage. They could find neither. They also ran a check for outstanding warrants and found none. The claims from the accuser and the accused could not be reconciled, providing no basis for any charges to be filed. The investigation into this matter is still ongoing, including a review of additional available records. The LMPD will issue a full report once this has been completed.

Four days later, the case is still open. “A few people have come forward since Monday,” says township spokesperson Thomas Walsh. “But it is not clear if they heard the entire conversation. So far, there is no confirmation of terroristic threats, but that could change, of course. The [police] have been very engaged with the community and the [Anti-Defamation League] on this matter throughout the week.”

An ADL spokesperson tells Philadelphia magazine that the group is keeping very close tabs on the investigation but that they’re urging the public to allow the police to “ascertain the veracity of the incident.” The ADL attempted to reach the father, but he has not returned their calls.

Police lieutenant Christopher Polo says that “several” witnesses have provided statements to police but that investigators are still looking for more information from residents who were nearby that night. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective John Mick at 610-645-6229.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.