Article by: Eyewitness News
Pictures by: Boruch Ezagui
The mother of the student stabbed at a Brooklyn synagogue Tuesday arrived from Israel Wednesday to be with him as he continues to recover.
Levi Rosenblatt remains in the intensive care unit at Bellevue after he was attacked and stabbed in the head inside a Crown Heights house of worship. NYPD officers opened fire and killed the attacker.
Rosenblatt’s family members said he is stable and that his recovery is progressing well. They are hopeful he can go home by the end of the week. His mother and uncle arrived Wednesday night, and expressed thanks to those who helped save her son’s life.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio met with members of the Jewish community in Crown Heights Thursday to reassure the troubled community that he was hearing their cries.
“Anytime a house of worship is invaded and there is violence, it grabs at people and makes them very uneasy, and that’s not surprising” de Blasio said. “So my job is to meet with the community leaders and say very clearly that we have their back.”
He said that the incident might prompt an expansion of the number of tasers the NYPD has at its disposal, but his main message was one of consoling and reassuring.
“We want to make very clear to the community that we are focused and vigilant and are going to apply the resources to keep people safe,” he said.
On Wednesday, behind the wooden doors of the Lubavitch Synagogue, there were prayers for the young rabbinical student. Sources say the stab wound was deep enough to penetrate the skull of the 22-year-old, though whether it did is still not clear.
“Everyone is very hopeful that he will be able to make a very full recovery, and a very quick one,” Rabbi Motti Seligson said.
Rosenblatt underwent exploratory surgery at Bellevue Hospital after the incident, which was caught on video.
Police say 49-year-old Calvin Peters was ordered to drop his knife more than a dozen times. At one point, he placed it on a table and an officer holstered his pistol. But when he suddenly lunged for the weapon and charged at the officers, he was killed with a single shot.
Police Commissioner William Bratton said the stabbing was not an act of terrorism, but that Peters was an emotionally-disturbed person known to the congregation.
One officer, who has seven years on the force, shot him once in the torso. The suspect was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“Unfortunately, as is the case in this circumstance, sometimes we’re not able to resolve it with the successful resolution that a life is not taken,” Bratton said.
Peters was described as bi-polar, but what sparked the rampage is still not known.
NYPD officers are stationed outside the ultra-Orthodox synagogue, where worshippers are convinced that divine intervention is what saved Rosenblatt.
About 50 people were inside the center when the stabbing happened.
The police shooting “looks like it was justified,” Bratton said, adding that it came after officers “gave verbal commands for the male to drop the knife.”
According to Rabbi Motti Seligson, of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rosenblatt is studying at the Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarters. Seligson said in a statement that witnesses heard him say repeatedly, “kill the Jews.”
“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 said in the statement.
The report of the anti-Semitic comment came from several witnesses as well, but has not been verified by the New York City Police Department.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) on Tuesday condemned the attack on the student.
“There are not words strong enough to condemn this despicable act,” said Hikind. “The entire Jewish community is impacted by these cruel and senseless attacks … While we don’t have a precise motive yet in last night’s contemptible attack, one thing is clear-we need greater security for our Jewish institutions.”
Peters had a documented history of mental illness and had been arrested 19 times since 1982, most recently in 2006 for drugs, police said. He had also been to the Chabad-Lubavitch before, which is open to the public at all hours.
Detectives are investigating, but don’t suspect terrorism, police said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement in response to the incident: “New York City stands with the Crown Heights community, and under the leadership of the New York City Police Department, we are monitoring this case very closely and conducting a thorough investigation. Commissioner Bratton has also ordered the NYPD to increase security at Jewish religious institutions across the city as a precaution while the investigation is underway. I look forward to visiting the community in the coming days to hear concerns and reassure people of the City’s commitment to all of our safety and security. This incident also highlights the urgent need for increased services for emotionally disturbed or troubled people. Preliminary reports suggest the assailant in this case suffered from mental health issues. We as a society must do more for those who struggle with these challenges, and it is why the City has launched a new plan to improve access to mental health care and treatment for those in need.”