In an ongoing scourge of anti-Semitic hate crimes currently gripping the city, Mayor Eric Adams on Monday lauded local, state and federal law enforcement officials for coming together to stop what the city says was a likely attack on the Jewish community over the weekend.
At City Hall, Adams was flanked by top brass from the NYPD, MTA and FBI, who all came together to identify and arrest two men they allege were planning an attack on the Jewish community in the five boroughs.
The two suspects – identified as Christopher Brown and Matthew Mahrer – were arrested in Penn Station Saturday morning by MTA Police, after Brown was flagged by the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD Counterterrorism and Intelligence Bureau for threatening an armed attack on a synagogue via social media.
“Both the police commissioner and I were notified of a credible threat on Jewish New Yorkers and immediately communicated with our teams to take appropriate action,” Adams said. “The potential attack on Jewish New Yorkers, because of that coordination, was averted. The suspects were apprehended before they could act on their alleged plan to murder members of the Jewish community in our city. This was not an idle threat, this was a real threat.”
Accompanying Adams were NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks, MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Assistant Director of the FBI’s New York Field Office Michael Driscoll.
Once arrested, the mayor said, both men were searched by MTA Police, who discovered they were carrying several weapons including a Glock semi-automatic handgun, a ghost gun with an extended 30-round magazine and laser sight and a large hunting knife.
They also had an armband emblazoned with a Nazi symbol and a ski masks.
“A Nazi armband in New York City in 2022, think about that for a moment,” the mayor said. “Over 77 years ago, after allied soldiers liberated Auschwitz and exposed the full extent of the horrors of the Holocaust, hate is on the rise in America – a dark cloud over our nation. It has become normalized by politicians and celebrities, amplified by social media and cable news and weaponized by the easy availability of guns in this country.”
According to Bragg, both suspects were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court over the weekend. They were charged with possession of a firearm, a high-capacity magazine, an 8-inch military knife, an arm patch with a swastika on it and for making a Twitter post about shooting up a synagogue.
“The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will be using the full resources of our counter-terrorism program and our expanded hate crimes unit for accountability and justice in this matter,” Bragg said. “We do not tolerate illegal guns in this city. We do not tolerate hate and anti-Semitism in this city. And we do not tolerate violence in this city.”
Lieber said the threat of an anti-Semitic attack in the city is personal to him, as his father came to the United States in 1940 after his grandmother and other relatives were killed in the Holocaust.
“So you can imagine my reaction when I heard from City Hall late Friday night that there were people with Nazi swastika armbands using our MTA transit system, which I’m privileged to oversee, using our transit system on route to plan attacks on synagogues,” Lieber said.
Bronx City Council Member Eric Dinowitz – chair of the council’s Jewish Caucus – said he’s “grateful” to see law enforcement and government officials working hand-in-hand with the Jewish community to protect it – something that wasn’t always a given throughout Jewish history.
“But we also know that would that security that I’m grateful for, by the time it reaches that point, it’s often too late,” Dinowitz said. “And there’s so much more community building and education and work we have to do to make sure that it doesn’t get to this point of people walking into the Penn Station with a gun and a swastika armband and posing an imminent threat to our Jewish community.”