NYC Policeman Fatally Shoots Armed Man in Synagogue

A New York City policeman shot and killed a knife-wielding man with a history of mental illness after he allegedly stabbed a student at a Brooklyn synagogue early this morning.

Officers rushed to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters on Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood at about 1:41 a.m. following a report of a stabbing, the department said in a statement. Officer Timothy Donohue, who was manning a nearby command post, responded and saw Calvin Peters, 49, of Valley Stream, wielding a knife, police said.

Donohue repeatedly ordered Peters to drop the knife as other officers arrived on the scene, police said. Peters ultimately placed the knife on a nearby table, then picked it up and lunged, police said. Officer Roberto Pagan fired a single shot and struck Peters in the torso, they said. No other shots were fired.

“Last night’s event is deeply disturbing,” Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky said in a statement on Lubavitch.com. The synagogue “is a place of study and worship, a sanctuary of outreach and love. We are working closely with the authorities in their ongoing investigation.”

The attacker entered the synagogue at about 1:30 a.m. and began waving a knife and making loud threats against Jews, according to the statement. The stabbing victim, identified on the synagogue’s website as Israeli student Levi Rosenblatt, 22, was taken to Kings County Hospital for treatment of a wound to the left temple. He’s in stable condition, police said.

Knife Recovered

Peters was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. Pagan, 29, who had been on the force for about six years and never previously been involved in a shooting, was taken to Methodist Hospital for tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. The knife, with a 4 1/2-inch blade, was recovered.

Videos of the incident posted on YouTube show Peters walking around the synagogue wielding a knife as officers urge him to drop the weapon and students attempt to calm him. A single shot can be heard out of the view of the camera.

Peters had visited the synagogue twice on the night before the shooting and been escorted from the premises both times, Police Commissioner William Bratton told reporters.

Peters had a history of mental illness and was removed from the street as an emotionally disturbed person four times in 2001 and 2002, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. He had been arrested 19 times since 1982, most recently for drugs in 2006, Boyce said.

‘Some Stress’

Relatives told police Peters been diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 10 years ago, hadn’t been taking medication and had been “under some stress,” Boyce said. Police reviewed his social media postings and found no indication the incident was a hate crime, he said.

“The individual seems to have had a significant set of emotional circumstances over the course of a number of years,” Bratton said.

An attorney for Peters’ family, Jeffrey St. Clair, told the Associated Press outside their Valley Stream home that he was “a loving and devoted father” who suffered from bipolar disorder. St. Clair didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement that the shooting highlights the need for increased services for the mentally ill, saying the city is has a new plan to provide care.

“We as a society must do more for those who struggle with these challenges,” De Blasio said in a statement.

Increased Security

While Bratton ordered increased security at Jewish institutions across the city, there are no indications the attack was linked to terrorism, Detective Marc Nell said today in a telephone interview.

Calls to the synagogue went unanswered this morning. Chabad-Lubavitch is an ultra-Orthodox group with a global program aimed at spreading the faith among Jews living and traveling abroad.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district includes the synagogue, said the entire Jewish community is affected by what he called “cruel and senseless attacks.”

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