An Aquebogue man was arrested by New York City police late Friday night on multiple felony charges in connection with threatening the city’s Jewish community, according to police.
Christopher Brown, 21, of Aquebogue, and Matthew Mahrer, 22, of Manhattan, were detained by MTA police late Friday night in Penn Station after NYPD issued an alert about the two men making recent threats to New York City synagogues.
MTA police officers identified and searched the pair and recovered a large hunting knife from Brown. They were turned over to NYPD and FBI, MTA Police Chief John Mueller said in a statement Friday night.
Brown was in possession of an 8-inch hunting knife, according to police. A subsequent search of Mahrer’s apartment recovered an illegal Glock-style handgun with a 30-round magazine, police said.
Brown also had a swastika arm patch and a ski mask on him when he was arrested.
A Twitter account Brown identified as his had a posting Thursday that said, “Gonna ask a Priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die,” according to The New York Times. He posted on Friday: “This time I’m really gonna do it.”
Police said Brown had a history of mental illness. His mother told News 12 he suffers from schizophrenia and had recently been released from a group home.
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said this morning Riverhead police had previously been called to Brown’s home, but he was not able to immediately provide specific information.
NYPD and the Joint Terrorism Task Force have conducted a search of Brown’s Aquebogue home since his arrest, Hegermiller said. He referred questions about the search to NYPD and the task force.
Brown and Mahrer were both charged with criminal possession of a weapon, making a terrorist threat and aggravated harassment. Both were arraigned in New York City Criminal Court Sunday.
Violent attacks on synagogues, including the October 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, have coincided with an increase in overt antisemitic behavior and language, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks antisemitic behavior nationwide. Incidents of incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence directed at Jews are at their highest levels in 50 years, reaching a record high in 2021, data collected by the ADL show. The ADL logged 2,717 antisemitic incidents in 2021 and so far, 1,483 such incidents in 2022.
The Riverhead police chief said he is not aware of any threats against the synagogue in Riverhead. “But we are ever-vigilant,” Hegermiller said.
Editor’s note: A criminal charge is an accusation. A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
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