NEW YORK — The Long Island man allegedly behind a series of threats in which he described wanting to “boot up” a Manhattan synagogue has also admitted to being part of an online white supremacist group, prosecutors said in court documents.
Law enforcement officials stated Saturday that the arrests of two New York men at Penn Station prevented an “developing threat” to the Jewish community.
Christopher Brown and Matthew Mahrer were taken into custody at the bustling transit center Friday night, hours after authorities identified Brown for allegedly posting a series of threats on Twitter. The couple was in possession of numerous weapons, police said.
“Two MTA police officers assigned to patrol in Penn Station Friday night after being notified by an MTA police detective assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in English) from the FBI/NYPD, have identified two men wanted in connection with threats to the Jewish community,” MTA Police Department Chief John Mueller said in a statement.
In addition to a “military-style knife” in his possession, authorities said a firearm and high-capacity magazine were recovered from Mahrer’s Upper West Side apartment building.
Brown, of Aquebogue, faced a judge Sunday on charges of gun possession and terrorist threats. The charging documents include some of the violent tweets posted in the past week; one claimed that Brown would “ask a priest whether he should make me a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die.”
A week before his arrest, the 21-year-old reportedly tweeted: “Big moves were made on Friday.”
In addition to the multiple weapons recovered in his arrest, prosecutors also said Brown was in possession of a swastika armband, a ski mask and a bulletproof vest. Specific details of any plans he may have intended to carry out have not been released by officials.
Court documents detail a statement Brown made to authorities Saturday in which he admitted to purchasing a firearm with Mahrer from a friend in Pennsylvania. He also allegedly claimed responsibility for posting the threatening tweets and said that he belonged to a white supremacist group on Twitter.
An email to Brown’s public defender was not immediately returned Sunday morning.
“A potential tragedy was averted when they were intercepted by police officers at Penn Station, given that online postings indicated an intent to use these weapons at a Manhattan synagogue,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
The Anti-Defamation League said its organization first identified the online threats on Brown’s closed Twitter account and found hundreds of anti-Semitic tweets posted in the past week.
“This is a person who was very active on social media and that’s part of the reason the police were worried about him,” she told our sister network. News 4 Scott Richman, regional director of the ADL.
Mahrer, who has only been charged with possession of weapons, was arraigned on Saturday night and is remanded without bail. His lawyer argued in court that the 22-year-old had no criminal record and said he is of “Jewish heritage,” reported the NY Post.
The NYPD chief said police commanders would “strategically deploy assets to sensitive locations throughout New York City” in the wake of the arrests.