‘The Next Pittsburgh or Poway Synagogue Massacre Was Averted’: Would-be Synagogue Attackers Charged in New York
The two men arrested Friday for a plot to attack a New York City synagogue were armed to the teeth, city and state officials said Monday morning at a Manhattan press conference
“What might have been the next Pittsburgh or Poway synagogue massacre was averted,” the CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, Eric Goldstein, said, referring to the 2018 and 2019 massacres at Jewish houses of worship.
Christopher Brown, 21, of Aquebogue, NY, and Matthew Mahrer, 22, of Manhattan, were charged with multiple state felonies and arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court, while the FBI said it has not yet made a decision about whether to charge them with federal crimes.
Brown and Mahrer have pleaded not guilty to the state charges.
“The allegations in the court filings are stark: possession of a firearm, a high capacity magazine, an eight inch long military style knife, a swastika arm patch, and a Twitter posting about shooting a synagogue,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
“This was not an idle threat,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams added. “This was a real threat.”
One of the men arrested, Christopher Brown, had posted on twitter on Thursday that he might “shoot up a synagogue” and a video message about killing people with hatchets, according to the criminal complaint made public on Sunday.
On Friday, the FBI notified the city that it had identified Brown and his associate Matthew Mahrer as a potential threat. The NYPD then issued a ‘bolo’ – be on the look out – that led to their arrest Saturday morning at Penn Station following the notice from the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The FBI said that there was no indication of any continued threat to the Jewish community following the arrests, however Mayor Adams said that there would be an increased NYPD presence at synagogues in the lead-up to the Hanukkah holiday.
“We have no information there is any continued threat to the Jewish community in connection with this case,” said Michael Driscoll, the assistant director of New York’s FBI field office.
Adams laid some blame for the plot with social media companies.
“Social media must become more responsible,” he said. “It is time for social media to come to the table and reckon with the role that social media unintentionally is playing in the spreading of hate and organizing this.”