By Carol Tannenhauser
An Upper West Side man was arrested late Friday night in connection with a “developing threat to the Jewish community,” Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said in a statement on Saturday.
Matthew Mahrer, 22, of W. 94th Street, was detained by MTA officers in Penn Station along with Christopher Brown, 21, of Aquebogue in Suffolk County, New York. Both men were charged with “criminal possession of a weapon.” Brown was also charged with “[making] a terroristic threat and aggravated harassment,” according to an NYPD spokesperson.
The New York Post reported that Mahrer lives with his parents on the Upper West Side and is “Jewish and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor.” The Post attributed the information to Brandon Freycint, identified as Mahrer’s defense attorney. Freycint was speaking Saturday at Mahrer’s arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court, where Mahrer was ordered held on $150,000 bail, the Post reported.
According to the Daily News, Brown allegedly had a swastika armband and a large hunting knife when detained, and police recovered a firearm at Mahrer’s home. The Daily News, quoting police sources, said Mahrer’s mother had been “cooperative.”
Brown was traced through online threats he allegedly made, uncovered by “the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, NYPD Counterterrorism and Intelligence Bureau investigators, working with their law enforcement partners,” Sewell said.
A CNN report said law enforcement officials began tracing anti-semitic threats that appeared on a Twitter account on November 12, “and were traced late Friday to a computer at a veterinary clinic where one of the suspects worked.” According to CNN, the threats allegedly referenced attacking a synagogue; CNN said one post read: “Gonna ask a priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die.”
Investigators were tipped off to Mahrer’s address by “a suspect’s friend,” CNN reported. When they went there, they “learned the two suspects had been there and dropped off a backpack, and were on their way to Penn Station.” The backpack contained “an illegal Glock 17 firearm and 30-round magazine, and several other items,” Commissioner Sewell said.
Assistant District Attorney Emilio Hernandez told the Post that Mahrer’s mother had “alerted police officers to the existence of a firearm within the backpack of the defendant inside the defendant’s apartment.”
Mahrer’s parents were present for his arraignment. Outside the courtroom, his mother told the Post “’He’s not what they are saying he is.’” The Post said his father declined to comment.
As the investigation continues, “Police Department commanders are strategically deploying assets at sensitive locations throughout New York City,” Commissioner Sewell’s statement added.