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Accused SF synagogue shooter had long history of ‘terrorizing society,’ family says

Shacharit, morning service, at the Schneerson Center where police say Dmitri Mishin shot a replica firearm in a room of worshippers. | Russell Yip for The Standard

A man accused of terrorizing a San Francisco synagogue comes across in newly obtained police records as a weapons-obsessed alcoholic whose violence escalated for at least a decade.

Dmitri Mishin, 51, faces two counts of felony religious terrorism and other charges for allegedly firing a fake pistol inside the Shneerson Center in the Richmond District, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The Feb. 1 incident prosecutors describe as a hate crime fits a pattern of mental instability, extremism and aggression that has characterized Mishin for many years, a relative told The Standard.

“He’s been terrorizing society for the last 10 years,” said the relative, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for their safety. “Next time—God forbid—if he’s released he’ll come with a real gun.”

Surveillance footage of Dmitri Mishin who's accused of walking into a San Francisco synagogue on Feb. 1 and firing blanks from a replica gun. | Courtesy FBI

The shooting at the largely Russian-speaking synagogue was one of two crimes authorities say Mishin committed in the neighborhood. The day before, he allegedly brandished a gun inside the Balboa Theatre up the street.

Mishin is expected to appear in court for the first time Thursday morning for his arraignment following his arrest last Friday. Prosecutors plan to ask a judge to hold him in jail without the option of posting bail.

A History of Violence

Police reports obtained by The Standard paint a picture of a man with a long history of aggressive outbursts and excessive drinking. Police cited or arrested him numerous times—largely in the Sunset or near Ocean Beach—on suspicion of crimes as serious as attempted murder.

Among the documented violence in his past: 

  • In 2019, Mishin was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a friend during a drunken fight over a card game.
  • In 2018, Mishin allegedly chased a woman around a home with a champagne bottle and then threw an ax at her. He was booked on assault.
  • In 2016, Mishin was placed on a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric hold after officers found him throwing plates and glasses out his apartment window. Mishin “continually rambled on incoherently and continually shouted, ‘Liberation!’” during his interaction with officers.
  • In 2013, Mishin was accused of throwing a dog bowl at his then-wife.
  • In 2011, a dog walker told police she caught Mishin stealing an American flag before hitting her in the chest with the flag pole.

It’s unclear whether Mishin was charged or convicted in connection with any of these reports.

A records check by police showed Mishin owned 11 firearms in 2013, according to one incident report. The officers at the scene confiscated a World War II-era replica machine gun and two airguns from Mishin—as well as a replica grenade he allegedly kept in the center console of a vehicle.

On the less-severe end of Mishin’s alleged crimes, a flower shop owner told police in 2013 he walked off with a bouquet of white roses worth $9.99.

"I know it wasn't very much money, but it's the principle of the matter,” the owner said, according to a police report.

The Schneerson Center in San Francisco's Richmond District. | Russell Yip for The Standard

Military Obsession

Mishin’s fixation on all things military began in 2009 after he took part in filming a short film about World War II in Petaluma. He started wearing military uniforms in public and acting “like he’s mentally ill,” the relative said.

Mishin also disparaged Jews and Muslim, according to the relative.

Images from a now-deleted account on, a Russian social network, show him posing with a rifle, knives, an ax, a sword and a razor. 

In one photo, he stands on a San Francisco street and flashes the Nazi salute. In others he wears a Russian military uniform and poses next to a street sign draped in a Soviet flag and a rifle leaning against its post.

The relative said Mishin had run-ins with other members of the Russian-speaking diaspora in San Francisco and was unwelcome in many community spaces. But many people chose not to go to the police.

“They said: ‘What do you want us to do? Press charges? Three days in jail and he’s out. And he’ll come back to use and finish what he started,’” the relative said.

They added: “One lock in the jail will save so many people’s future lives.”

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