An NYPD officer shot and killed an emotionally troubled Valley Stream man early Tuesday inside a Brooklyn synagogue after the man stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli student and lunged at the officer with a knife, officials said.
Calvin Peters, 49, was killed by one shot from the handgun of an officer after he entered the Crown Heights synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway and attacked Levi Rosenblatt, 22, police said.
Rosenblatt, who lives in Israel, was studying at about 1:40 a.m. inside the basement of the synagogue, the world headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, when Peters attacked him, police said. The synagogue is open 24-hours-day, according to spokesman Motti Seligson.
Rosenblatt was listed in serious but stable condition late Tuesday, Mayor Bill deBlasio said. Peters was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital, officials said.
The attack unnerved many in a Crown Heights Hasidic community still on edge less than a month after two Palestinian cousins, armed with meat cleavers, knives and a handgun, killed four ultra-Orthodox rabbis inside a Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers.
Witnesses said before he attacked Rosenblatt, Peters made “anti-Jewish” remarks, said NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, adding that the stabbing did not be terrorism-related. A bystander filmed much of the three-minute confrontation between Peterson and three officers.
Bratton said that “preliminarily, the shooting looks like it was justified.”
Because of witnesses statements, the NYPD’s hate crimes will investigate to see if the attack by Peters was a bias incident, Bratton said.
Peters first entered the synagogue just after 5 p.m. before leaving, police said. He returned at midnight but was escorted out. When Peters came back, he had a 9-inch knife with a 4 and 1/2 inch blade, police said.
He stabbed the student on the left side of the head and neck after blurting out “I am going to kill you,” according to witnesses and investigators.
Someone then alerted police officer Timothy Donohue, 25, stationed at a command post outside the building.
He called for back up and went inside, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said. Two additional officers in a 71 Precinct sector car — Roberto Pagan, 29, and Kevin Haniff, 29 — rushed to the location and all three faced down the knife-wielding Peters, Bratton said. Video footage shows Peters brandishing the knife and moving around the room as officers repeatedly order him to drop it.
At one point Peters obeys their commands and places the knife on a table, a move which prompted Pagan to holster his gun and approach with handcuffs. But Peters picks up the knife and appears to lunge toward the officer. Pagan then opened fire, Bratton said.
At Peters’ Valley Stream home, his brother-in-law, Jeffrey St. Clair said Peters suffered from bi-polar disease but was a “loving father to two kids.”
NYPD chief of detectives Robert Boyce said the Peters, who had 19 arrests, lived on Social Security and didn’t keep a visit Tuesday with a Long Island psychiatrist.
After the attack, the NYPD increased security at Jewish institutions across the city as a precaution, deBlasio said. Some didn’t think that was enough.
“The police department is limited in what it can do,” said Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D). “We need to take some of responsibility ourselves, there is no other way.”
With Nicole Fuller Alison Fox, Nicole Fuller and Emily Ngo