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Woman arrested after driving car into Indianapolis building she thought was `Israel school'

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A woman who allegedly drove her car into a building in Indianapolis after watching coverage of the Israel-Hamas war told officers she believed the building was an “Israel school,” according to police and court records.

One adult as well as four children — ages 7 months, 1, 2 and 3 years — were inside the Israelite School of Universal and Practical Knowledge at the time of late Friday's crash, but no one was injured, police said.

The 34-year-old woman was arrested at the scene and was being held Monday at the Marion County Jail on a preliminary charge of criminal recklessness in Friday's crash. She had not been formally charged as of Monday afternoon, said Michael Leffler, a spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor's Office.

The woman “told one officer she has been watching the news and couldn’t breathe anymore. She referenced her people back in Palestine,” according to a news release from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, which said it had notified the FBI of the crash.

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"She said she passed by a couple times and saw the `Israel school,”' the release states, adding that the woman further stated, “Yes. I did it on purpose.”

The building is in fact associated with Radical Hebrew Israelites, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a “hate group,” noting its ideology has become increasingly antisemitic, anti-white, anti-LGBTQ, xenophobic and misogynistic since the 1960s, The Indianapolis Star reported.

The woman told police she had been watching TV news coverage of the Israel-Hamas war that began with the surprise Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and decided to plan an attack by crashing into the building, according to a probable cause affidavit for her arrest, The Star reported.

After the crash, the woman's car had damage to its rear-end and she admitted to crashing into the building on purpose while speaking with her sister during her courtesy phone call following her arrest, according to the affidavit.

Captain Chaapash Yahawadah, who said he is the leader of the Indianapolis school, said the building's foundation suffered significant damage when it was struck by the suspect’s car. He told The Associated Press the school was hosting a class and school-related functions at the time and that the crash left the people who were inside stunned and traumatized.

“Our statement to the Palestinian community is the Black and brown community has nothing to do with what’s going on over there, the war in the Middle East between Gaza and Israel,” Yahawadah said Monday.

The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council said in a statement that it had been notified of the crash.

“Although a Jewish facility was not targeted, solely due to ironic misidentification, this is yet another reminder to maintain security protocols, remain vigilant of suspicious activity and to report same promptly to the appropriate authorities,” the council said in a statement.