Crown Heights, NY - A knife-wielding man stabbed an Israeli student in the head inside a Brooklyn synagogue early Tuesday before being fatally shot by police after he refused to drop the knife, authorities said.
The man stormed into the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic world headquarters in Crown Heights at about 1:40 a.m. and attacked Levi Rosenblat, who was studying inside the synagogue, spokesman Motti Seligson said. He said there were other people inside at the time.
According to witnesses, the attacker was heard saying repeatedly “Kill the Jews,” said Chaim Landa, another spokesman for Chabad-Lubavitch. Several other people immediately intervened, he said.
A witness flagged down a patrol officer, who confronted the 49-year-old man and told him to put the knife down. He initially put it down, but picked it up again, police said. More officers responded and repeatedly ordered the man to drop the knife.
He refused and, with the knife in his hand, charged at one of the officers, who fired once, striking the man in the torso, police said.
Police said no other officers discharged their weapons.
The man was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was not immediately identified, but police said he was from New York City and had a criminal history.
The 22-year-old Rosenblat was in stable condition, officials said.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind condemned the attack.
“I’m told that the attacker came earlier that evening, too. He was stalking the scene. Thank God he didn’t inflict more harm nor do more damage to more people,” Hikind said in an email statement.
He said while a motive for the attack was not yet known, greater security was needed for Jewish institutions.
A 9-inch knife, with a 4 ½-inch blade, was recovered at the scene, police said.
“We commend the heroic efforts of the individuals who were present and took immediate action. If not for their intervention the outcome could have been, God forbid far worse,” said Landa.
“While we are very pained by everything that has unfolded, we are very grateful to the police for their quick response and are working closely with the authorities in their ongoing investigation,” he added.
Police said the investigation is continuing.