Two men were indicted on conspiracy and weapons charges in a foiled attack last month against a New York synagogue, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced Wednesday.
One of the suspects also faces terrorism and hate crime charges, Bragg said in a statement.
Christopher Brown, 21, is charged in a New York Supreme Court indictment with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism, making a terroristic threat, making a terroristic threat as a hate crime and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, Bragg said in a statement.
Brown and Matthew Mahrer, 22, are charged with fourth-degree conspiracy, two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a weapon.
The duo were arrested Nov. 18 at Penn Station. Transit police recovered a swastika armband and a ski mask from Brown’s backpack, Bragg said.
A backpack with a gun, an extended magazine and 19 rounds of ammunition were found in Mahrer’s apartment, Bragg said.
“A horrific tragedy was averted thanks to the diligence, hard work and coordination between my Office and our local, state and federal law enforcement partners,” Bragg said. “The increase in antisemitic attacks and threats cannot and will not be tolerated. Manhattanites and all New Yorkers should know that we continue to vigorously prosecute hate crimes every day and are using every tool at our disposal to address hate and bias.”
Attorneys representing Brown and Mahrer could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors said in their court filings that Brown used Twitter to make this alleged threat: “Gonna ask a Priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die.”
Brown also tweeted, “This time I’m really gonna do it,” prosecutors alleged.
The social media statements got the attention of the multi-jurisdiction Joint Terrorism Task Force, which gave a heads up to Metropolitan Transportation Authority police.
The duo was nabbed following “a developing threat to the Jewish community,” New York Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell has said.
The two had traveled to Pennsylvania to purchase a gun, prosecutors said in the charging documents.
Brown said in a statement he gave to prosecutors after his arrest that he intended to buy the gun but backed out at the last minute, according to the criminal complaints.
He met Mahrer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral “to get the blessing” before he traveled to Pennsylvania with a man identified only by his first name, according to prosecutors’ account of Brown’s statement.
“I changed my mind because I was nervous about the police and didn’t want the gun anymore,” Brown is quoted as saying.
Brown said he had sent $650 by cellphone app to Mahrer; the police report doesn’t make clear what happened to the money. Mahrer ultimately bought the weapon from the man who drove them out of state, Brown said, according to prosecutors.
The two were seen on security video entering an Upper West Side apartment building, which corresponds to Mahrer’s residence, authorities said. Mahrer was carrying a bag, which police recovered from the lobby later, authorities said.
Inside the bag was a Glock-style semi-automatic pistol, a large-capacity magazine and 17 9 mm rounds, authorities alleged.
More than an hour later the two were spotted, detained and arrested at Penn Station. Brown had an 8-inch military-style knife, prosecutors alleged.
He explained the gun to prosecutors, they said. “I have a sick personality. I was going to be a coward” and use it on himself, he is alleged to have said.
He told them that he runs what he called a “white supremacist Twitter group” and that Mahrer was a follower, according to the charging documents.
“I have nazi paraphernalia in my house,” Brown is quoted as saying. “I think it is really cool.”
Reports of antisemitic incidents in the U.S. hit record highs last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked antisemitic incidents since 1979.
Antisemitic rhetoric has become especially prominent in recent weeks after Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, made a series of antisemitic remarks on social media and praised Hitler in an hourslong interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff hosted a roundtable discussion Wednesday to discuss the rise of antisemitism and efforts to counter hate across the country.