NYPD arrests 2 men, seizes guns over ‘threat to Jewish community’

NEW YORK – Law enforcement in New York City on Saturday arrested two men and seized weapons over what police called an “evolving threat against the Jewish community.”

Authorities seized a large hunting knife, an illegal Glock 17 pistol and a 30-round magazine, police said.

A Nazi armband was reportedly found with the weapons.

It was not immediately clear whether the men were carrying the weapons at the time of the arrest.

After the arrest, police said they “exposed assets at sensitive locations” in the city.

The New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit and the FBI had identified the threat Friday, police said.

Early Saturday, officers arrested the two men at Penn Station, a central transportation hub in Manhattan, police told The Times of Israel.

Christopher Brown, 21, was charged with terroristic threats, aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon.

Matthew Mahrer, 22, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon.

Brown is from Long Island and Mahrer is from New York City, police said.

Authorities said Brown had a history of mental illness and had recently made threats against area synagogues.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officers arrested the pair as they entered Penn Station. The suspects were then turned over to the NYPD and FBI.

“We are extremely grateful to NYPD investigators and our law enforcement partners who uncovered and stopped a threat to our Jewish community,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in a statement.

Illustrative: Jewish New Yorkers in front of a police car in Brooklyn, New York City, September 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The Community Security Service, a Jewish security organization, said it had been in contact with federal and local law enforcement over the past 24 hours because of “a specific threat to the Jewish community in the New York area.”

The group said Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Community Security Initiative and the Secure Community Network were also involved in the response.

Evan Bernstein, the head of CSS, said the Community Security Trust in the UK first picked up on the threat on Twitter and informed its partners in the US.

The suspect was identified by his social media posts and investigators were able to determine that he was headed to Manhattan.

Investigators sent out a security alert, took pictures of the suspect from social media, distributed the pictures to security groups on the ground, and the suspect was apprehended around midnight, Bernstein told The Times of Israel.

He said he was not aware of a threat to a specific location, but a general threat to Jews.

The arrests come amid a wave of threats and attacks against Jews in New York and the United States.

“The threat levels just keep going up and up and up,” Bernstein said.

“You see it from the far right, you see it from the left, and the Jews are the ones caught in the middle,” he said.

The New York Police Department has confirmed 195 anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city between the beginning of the year and September 30, representing an attack every 33 hours. Many more incidents are likely to go unreported. The attacks range from assaults to racist graffiti, damage to property and verbal harassment.

Jews are consistently the group most exposed to hate crimes in the city on an annual basis, per capita and in absolute numbers.

Last month, the NYPD reported 20 anti-Jewish hate crimes, four times more than against any other group.

Illustrative: New York police secure a Jewish community event in New York City, May 19, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

There have been several attacks on synagogues in the United States in recent years, including the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which killed 11 people — the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States.

In 2019, an attacker with a machete killed an elderly man at the home of a rabbi during a holiday party in Monsey, north of New York City.

Earlier this month, federal prosecutors in New Jersey arrested a teenager with extremist Islamist views for making threats that prompted a sweeping FBI alert to the state’s synagogues. The threat prompted the police in neighboring New York to also increase guards and patrols at synagogues.

“They are very different ideologies that come from very different places,” Bernstein said. “Jews find themselves in the crosshairs of these various groups, but the common denominator is that they hate Jews.”

In April, an anti-Semitic attacker went on a rampage in New Jersey, stabbing and running over several Jews, putting the community on edge. The suspect has since been charged with federal hate crimes.

In 2019, New Jersey experienced one of the worst anti-Semitic attacks in recent years, when two attackers opened fire in a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, killing the Jewish owner, a Jewish customer and a store employee.

A report released by the ADL earlier this year found the highest levels of reported anti-Semitic events in the United States during 2021 since the organization began tracking the issue in the 1970s.

Kanye West’s anti-Semitic tirades and NBA player Kyrie Irving’s promotion of an anti-Semitic film have further fanned the flames and sparked a national conversation about anti-Semitism in the United States.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday that the American Jewish community is “being hit from all sides” and “desperately” needs additional support from the agency amid an apparent increase in anti-Semitic attacks.

He said about 63 percent of religious hate crimes were motivated by anti-Semitism, “and it targets a group that makes up about 2.4% of the American population.”

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