New York City is taking action after two men accused of plotting to attack a synagogue were arrested over the weekend at Penn Station.
MTA Police officers caught the men a few hours after receiving an alert about the suspect.
Monday, Mayor Eric Adams praised the officers, but said he’s worried about a “copycat” attack and ordered the NYPD to step up patrols at houses of worship, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said state police would be available to provide extra security to synagogues throughout the city.
Adams also demanded social media platforms do more to remove hate speech.
“This was not an idle threat. This was an active threat,” Adams said.
We’ve learned one of the men was wearing a T-shirt that said “I have a gun and I’m a schizophrenic,” in addition to posting threatening messages on Twitter.
“We’re always really concerned about copycats so so there will be an increased presence,” said Adams.
With the holiday season upon us, including Chanukah which begins Dec. 18, Adams ordered more police patrols at synagogues and houses of worship so that other hatemongers don’t copy suspects Christopher Brown, 21, of Long Island and Matthew Mahrer, 22, of Manhattan.
“As the mayor of the largest Jewish community in the United States, it’s my duty to protect, highest priority to protect all New Yorkers,” said Adams.
The mayor is also concerned about the proliferation of hate speech.
The criminal complaint against Brown and Mahrer cites Twitter messages that warned, “Big moves being made on Friday,” early last week. Another said, “Gonna ask a priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die.”
The tweet last Friday said, “This time I’m really gonna do it.”
“Social media has become a platform that has assisted with the organizing and the growth of hate and they need to become more responsible,” said Adams.
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine tweeted a picture of a subway with antisemitic Nazi graffiti and said, “There’s been an explosion of antisemitism on this site in the past 24 [hours]. I’ve had to shut down my [direct messages].”
Sources told the original threatening tweets were discovered Friday by the Jewish Community Relations Council’s eight-member community security initiative, which started after the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue attack in Pittsburgh. They alerted the NYPD and the FBI after the tweets were authenticated.
Brown was identified as the person who posted the tweets and officials issued a “be on the lookout” for him.
Sources said authorities traced Brown’s phone to Penn Station where two MTA cops, Ryan Fackner and Connor Colarsurdo, spotted Brown, who was with Mahrer.
“We were up at 34th and Seventh … when we saw him actually walk in with his friend. They both walked in through the entrance. We followed them down the escalator, stopped them and made the arrest,” said Fackner.
Sources said the suspects and an 8-inch military knife and Brown had a Nazi arm band. A gun with a 30 round magazine was found inside Mahrer’s home.
“A Nazi arm band in New York City in 2022. Think about that for a moment,” said Adams.
Eric Goldstein, CEO of the United Jewish Association, said his community will “do all we can to ensure that antisemitism and hate have no home in New York.”
Officials did not mention a specific target, but there were two large gatherings of Jewish people in Brooklyn on Friday, including hundreds of Hasidic rabbis at the Lubovicher World Headquarters in Crown Heights.
The FBI said there is no information pointing to a continued threat to the Jewish community at this time, although they asked for the public’s help.
“I want to thank members of the public, and if anyone else has more information about these suspects, to reach out to the FBI or NYPD as soon as possible,” said FBI Assistant Director Mike Driscoll.
The suspects were arraigned over the weekend and are due back in court Wednesday. So far, they only face state charges. The FBI will determine if they face federal charges.