LAKEWOOD - Authorities have accused a man of trying to touch and knock down Orthodox Jewish women as part of a gang initiation.
Lakewood police have charged 18-year-old Rafael Laurano-Flores with obstruction, resisting arrest, bias intimidation and bias harassment.
Laurano-Flores is accused of grabbing a 16-year-old girl's jacket Tuesday night in an attempt to touch her and knock her to the ground. She escaped, but police say he tried again near Princeton Avenue and Ninth Street, where a 54-year-old woman was walking with her 16-year-old daughter.
Investigators say the man was arrested thanks to help from members of the Lakewood Community Safety Watch who spotted a BMW SUV driving in this area, deemed it suspicious, and called police.
Police say Laurano-Flores was trying to touch and knock down women from the Orthodox Jewish community as part of an initiation for the MS-13 gang. "He told us that this was a gang initiation to touch an Orthodox woman because they knew this would be an inappropriate act and looked upon that way," says Chief Robert Lichtenstein.
Lichtenstein says they've never seen initiations involving the touching of Orthodox Jewish women until now. Physical contact with the opposite sex, outside of marriage, goes against their religion.
"You would think in the 21st century we wouldn't have so much anti-Semitism or it wouldn't be so prevalent but what can we do," a woman who asked her name be withheld told News 12 New Jersey.
Laurano-Flores is being held on $18,000 bail.