Two men, one wearing a Nazi armband, arrested after threat of anti-Semitic attack on New York synagogue
Two suspects were arrested in connection with threats to attack a synagogue in New York City and were indicted on numerous charges, according to court documents.
Christopher Brown, 21, was charged with terroristic threat, criminal possession of a weapon and other weapons-related charges, court documents say.
Matthew Mahrer, 22, was arraigned Saturday night and faces charges including criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm.
Brown was denied bail, and Mahrer’s bail was set at $150,000 cash or $300,000, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.
“As alleged, the two defendants possessed a firearm, a high-capacity magazine, ammunition, an 8″ long military-style knife, a swastika arm patch, a ski mask, and a bulletproof vest, among other things,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement to CNN.
“A potential tragedy was averted when they were intercepted by police officers at Penn Station, given that online postings indicated an intent to use these weapons at a Manhattan synagogue,” Bragg explained.
For his part, New York Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell announced the arrest of the two suspects in a statement.
Investigators from the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD Bureau of Counterterrorism and Intelligence, in conjunction with law enforcement partners, discovered “a developing threat to the Jewish community” on Friday.
Officials “moved quickly to gather information, identify those behind it, and operationally neutralize their ability to do harm,” Sewell stated.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officers apprehended the two men as they entered Penn Station in Manhattan on Saturday morning. Agents also seized “a large hunting knife, a Glock 17 illegal firearm and a 30-round magazine, and various other items,” the commissioner revealed.
Following the arrest, Brown and Mahrer “were turned over to the NYPD and the FBI,” the MTA said.
“The tremendous police work here reflects the core purpose of the MTA Police Department: to protect millions of commuters, in collaboration with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners,” the MTA said.
Law enforcement sources told CNN that the threats appeared on a Twitter account on November 12 and were traced on Friday to a computer at a veterinary clinic where one of the suspects worked.
The threats allegedly included references to carrying out an attack on a synagogue. “I’m going to ask a priest if I should become a husband or shoot a synagogue and die,” one post read, according to authorities.
Also, one of the messages contained reference to “big movements that were made on Friday.”
After being alerted to the Internet messages, the FBI and New York Bureau of Intelligence officials began “frantic efforts” to identify and locate the suspects.
In this regard, the MTA police were notified that the men may be traveling back and forth from Long Island to New York City or Pennsylvania.
Detectives were able to identify an address on 94th Street on the west side of Manhattan associated with a friend of one of the suspects, police sources said.
When the FBI and police arrived at the scene, they learned that the two suspects had been there and left a backpack and were headed for Penn Station.
The backpack contained a Glock semi-automatic firearm, a ghost pistol with a 30-round extended magazine, and a laser sight. When the criminals were spotted by MTA police at Penn Station, they were arrested, the sources said.
Detectives told the news outlet that an impending attack is believed to have been prevented.
Law enforcement sources said the belief was attributed to the fact that one of the suspects had made a series of troubling posts, obtained a semi-automatic weapon and had a Nazi armband, a large knife and a black ski mask.
“Today, we are extremely grateful to the NYPD investigators and our law enforcement partners who discovered and stopped a threat to our Jewish community,” Sewell wrote on his Twitter account.
“This morning’s arrests at Penn Station and gun seizures are proof of your vigilance and partnership that keeps New Yorkers safe.”
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