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Bratton backs cop who shot knife-wielding man in Brooklyn synagogue

Posted at 4:29 AM, Dec 09, 2014
and last updated 2015-01-30 19:23:55-05

CROWN HEIGHTS (PIX11)– Authorities say a man stabbed an Israeli student in the head inside a Crown Heights synagogue before being fatally shot by an officer after he refused to drop his weapon.

The police-involved shooting happened at the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters located 770 Eastern Parkway around 1:30 a.m.

Police say the man allegedly attacked 23-year-old Levi Rosenblatt, a young student who was worshiping at the religious center.  He was taken to a local hospital, but is in stable condition.

One of their officers, stationed at a nearby command post, heard of the attack and quickly responded. He found the suspect holding a 9-inch knife with a 4½-inch blade.

The attacker was identified as 49-year-old Calvin Peters of 722 Wyngate Drive East, Valley Stream, N.Y.

It’s not clear what the motive was, NYPD Commissioner Bratton told reporters he didn’t believe it was an act of terrorism, but rather the act of a disturbed man.

“The shooting looks like it was justified based on my initial impression of what I’ve seen on the video and that video I saw only on television,” Bratton said. ”

I’ll get a more detailed representation, but you have an individual with a knife who had allegedly just stabbed an individual, you have three responding officers who are clearly attempting repeatedly, put the knife down, put the knife down, and knife was put down at one point but immediately picked up.”

Police say 49-year-old man used this knife to attack a 22-year-old at a Brooklyn synagogue. (DCPI)

Police say 49-year-old man used this knife to attack a 22-year-old at a Brooklyn synagogue. (DCPI)

Peters was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he died just after 3 a.m.

At a brief news conference Tuesday, the NYPD’s John Miller described what happened as an “isolated incident” carried out by Peters, who is well known to police.

“At this point, (this) appears to involve an individual who … has a history of being an emotionally disturbed person and acting out in other places,” Miller said.

Jews in the United States and elsewhere — including Israel, the site of several recent stabbings — have been targeted before. But police have not labeled this specific incident as a hate crime.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson arrived at the synagogue and informed PIX11 News that his office is still investigating reports that Peters had a history of mental illness.

“We’re at the beginning stages of this investigation. I can’t tell you that we have been able to confirm that, but we are going to look at every aspect of this investigation of this particular individual,” Thompson said.

Rabbi Motti Seligson, a spokesman for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, said that, “According to witnesses, (the attacker) was overheard saying repeatedly, ‘Kill the Jews’ or something to that effect.”

Asked about such reports, Patrick Conry — who oversees police detectives in Brooklyn — did not say whether or not the attacker called out anyone specifically because of their religion.

“He may have said words to the effect of, ‘I will kill all of you,'” Conry said. “We’re still interviewing witnesses.”

A cell phone video captured what happened next

“Throw it, just throw it,” an officer says, before urging the attacker to step away from the tossed knife and put his hands up.

The suspect initially complies, then slowly walks back toward the knife.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” someone yells out.

The officer yells out again, “Stay away from me” — but it doesn’t stop the man from lunging for, and picking up, the knife he’d briefly dropped.

The man then starts running toward police, saying, “Are you going to arrest me?”

Police officers — as, by then, there were several at the scene — can be heard yelling as well. “Drop the (expletive) knife! Drop the (expletive) knife!”

Then comes a gunshot.

Police keep up, pointing guns toward the now-downed man and telling him to drop the knife and not to move.

“Stay down! Stay down!” one officer yells.

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Increased police presence at ‘houses of worship’

The suspect was shot in the torso, according to police.

Officers continued to tell him not to move as they handcuffed him in between the synagogue’s books and desks.

An ambulance took him to Kings County Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

The officer who shot him and two other officers were sent to Brooklyn’s Methodist Hospital for treatment of tinnitus, which is a noise or ringing in the ears.

No one is saying this attack is part of any larger plot. Still, given that the news may cause concerns at “houses of worship around the city, our critical incident response vehicles … will focus on religious institutions in part today,” the NYPD’s Miller said.

“So you will see some enhanced coverage in terms of police presence at locations,” Miller added. “But I want to underline that is to really address those concerns while we sort through the details here, not to suggest that … this had any connection to anything other than this individual and his problems at this time.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio released a lengthy statement regarding the shooting, praising the police involved.

“They responded quickly to a tense and dangerous situation, and while any loss of life is tragic, we are fortunate that, thanks to the actions of our officers early this morning, more people were not injured or worse.”