Two men arrested just before midnight on Friday at New York’s Penn Station in what authorities said was a “growing threat to the Jewish community” have been charged with multiple felonies, including criminal possession of a weapon and making a terrorist attack. threat.
Authorities seized an 8-inch military-style knife and an illegally held handgun with a 30-round magazine from Christopher Brown, 21, and Matthew Mahrer, 22. They also found Mr. Brown in possession of a Swastika arm patch and ski mask .
Law enforcement officials with knowledge of the situation said threats of violence against Jewish sites, including “shooting down a synagogue”, were recently made in social media posts and there was a reference to a violent act that took place on Friday.
“Possible tragedy was averted when they were intercepted by police officers at Penn Station,” said Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg. “given that online posts indicated intent to use these weapons at a synagogue in Manhattan.
Police said Mr Brown had a history of mental illness and had recently expressed an interest in coming to New York to buy a gun.
Police also seized a Glock-style handgun, a large-capacity magazine, and 17 9mm rounds in a bag in an apartment building on the Upper West Side around 11 p.m. Friday. The two men were seen on video walking into the building about 45 minutes earlier, according to police, and Mr. Mahrer appeared to be carrying the bag.
A message on a Twitter account that Mr Brown identified as his on November 12 read: “Big steps are being taken on Friday.” And on Thursday, Nov. 17, the same account posted, “I’m going to ask a priest if I should become a husband or shoot a synagogue and die.” On Friday, Nov. 18, Mr. Brown posted, “This time I’m actually going to do it.”
After the men were arrested, Keechant L. Sewell, the police commissioner, said in a statement that the New York Police Department is “deploying resources strategically” to “sensitive locations” across the city based on a threat.
She said Metropolitan Transportation Authority officers with “sharp eyes” arrested the two as they pulled into Penn Station.
On Saturday, Mr. Brown the police that he and Mr. Mahrer had first gone to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to “get the blessings” before being told by a friend of Mr. Mahrer were driven to Pennsylvania to buy a gun.
“I paid Matt $650 for the gun,” Mr. Brown told officers. “However, I changed my mind because I was nervous about the police and didn’t want the gun anymore, but Matt bought it anyway.”
At that point, the men drove back to Manhattan, he said.
Mr Brown also told authorities that he ran a white supremacist Twitter group and that Mr Mahrer was one of his followers.
Governor Kathy Hochul said in a tweet on Sunday that, in response to recent threats to Jewish and LGBTQ communities, she has directed the New York State Police to step up monitoring and increase support for communities potentially targeted by hate crimes.
Both men were arraigned on Sunday and Mr. Mahrer was held at the Eric M. Taylor Center on Rikers Island. Details of where Mr. Brown was being held were not available on the city’s Department of Correction website as of Sunday afternoon.
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