Volunteers, city officials help rebuild Mount Dora synagogue following crash

Synagogue damaged Monday after 18-year-old shooting suspect crashed his car

MOUNT DORA, Fla. – A community came together Tuesday to help rebuild a local synagogue after it was caught in the middle of a high-speed chase in which a shooting suspect crashed into the building.

Volunteers are already in the process of getting results for The Glick Synagogue.

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“For something like this to happen — it is a bit unnerving,” said Larry Mills, president of The Glick Synagogue.

Mills said the damage was still visible Tuesday afternoon: the left side of the building was riddled with bullet holes, and right below was a hole exposing the inside of the synagogue where deputies said 18-year-old Johnny Santiago crashed his truck before shooting at law enforcement.

Mills oversaw some parts of the volunteer-led rebuild and said the inside was torn to shreds.

“I came in and was actually able to take a look at the room and see the concrete rubble, huge pieces of concrete, some of them probably 80 to 100 pounds, that had been thrown across the room, so it looks like a bomb had hit this place,” Mills said.

Volunteers Amanda Cudworth and Don Thames, both from Umatilla, said their community will always stick together.

The pair told News 6, “The mayor came by with donuts and food, and, yeah, there has been a lot of people that donated wood, that donated paint... I think there is a lot more care out there in the world than people think, so it’s nice to see it in action.”

Thames and Cudworth do not attend the synagogue but were friends with its Rabbi and have friends who attended services there. The pair told News 6 they came out simply because it was the right thing to do.

“If someone ran into my home or my place of worship, I would want help, so we just try to help people where we can... like I said, he is a good friend of mine, so any point to give him (a) hand, I know it would be reciprocated,’” the two said.

Mills said he’s ultimately grateful because this incident could’ve been worse.

“I’m happy it hit a part of the building that wasn’t being used, and there was nobody here,” said Mills. “So it’s just property damage. It’s going to take us some time to figure out how we are going to make this all whole again, but life is life, right?”

The synagogue said that with the help of the community, they are set to have service this weekend.

The city of Mount Dora is looking into fundraising opportunities as repairs continue.

Check back with News 6 for updates after that information is made available.

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About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.