No terrorism link seen in stabbing at NYC Jewish center
New York — A man with a history of mental illness slipped into the headquarters of a major Jewish organization in Brooklyn in the middle of the night Tuesday and stabbed an Israeli student in the head as he was studying in the library.
Then, as the screaming, bloody victim was taken away, the attacker lunged at police and was shot and killed, authorities said.
Calvin Peters, 49, could be seen on amateur video waving a knife in the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights at 1:40 a.m. after the attack on Levi Rosenblat. Rosenblat, wounded in the side of the head, was expected to survive.
Police said the stabbing was not believed to be connected to terrorism. But it shook the Jewish community, still reeling over an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinian cousins last month that left four worshippers and an officer dead.
“The entire Jewish community is impacted by these cruel and senseless attacks,” said New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose Brooklyn constituents are largely Orthodox Jews. “How can we help but be reminded of the recent, horrible tragedy … which left five innocent people dead?”
At least one witness said he heard Peters repeatedly saying, “Kill the Jews!” according to Rabbi Chaim Landa, a Chabad-Lubavitch spokesman.
Police were still interviewing witnesses but quoted Peters as saying instead, “I’m going to kill all of you.” And the case was not immediately classified as a possible bias crime.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Peters encountered any security as he entered the 24-hour building before the attack, which at first was reported as happening in a synagogue there.
The jerky clip of the confrontation posted online showed Peters in a waist-length jacket and hat with a knife in his right hand, surrounded by officers with drawn weapons and Jewish students wearing traditional plain Orthodox clothing.
Some of the students appeared to be trying to defuse the situation, urging Peters to calm down and asking officers not to shoot him.
Peters eventually put the knife down at an officer’s urging and stepped away, but quickly picked it up again as the officer approached him, apparently to arrest him.
Officers yelled at him repeatedly to drop the weapon as Peters moved around, and a single gunshot could be heard. The shooting itself took place outside camera range.
Police said Peters had lunged at the officer with the knife.
Chaim Grossbaum, a 19-year-old who was studying at the center, said Peters had put his knife down, then picked it up again, “and starts walking toward them, and then the cops shoot him.”
Peters had a documented history of mental illness and had been arrested 19 times since 1982, most recently in 2006 for drugs, police said.
Attorney Jeffrey A. St. Clair, appearing at the Peters family’s front door in Valley Stream, on Long Island, described him as bipolar.
But he added: “Calvin Peters was a loving and devoted father. And the family is quite frankly shocked and disappointed at what happened.”
Next-door neighbor Lorraine McCartney called Peters as “a very nice man” who had attended parties in her backyard. “I would never believe that of him. Never,” she said.
The Crown Heights neighborhood is home to a large ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch community and was the site of racially charged riots between Jews and blacks in 1991 following the fatal stabbing of a rabbinical student.