Officials in New York are investigating an attack Wednesday night in Brooklyn that left three officers injured. Some news reports have suggested the violence might be terror-related, citing anonymous sources. The mayor’s office and the New York City Police Department have not linked the violence to terrorism.
The late-night attack occurred in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood when police said a man approached an officer assigned to an anti-looting patrol and stabbed him in the neck.
The stabbing led to a flurry of gunfire as more officers responded to the scene. “We believe that when they got there, they saw the perpetrator with a gun in his hand, which we believe belonged to one of the officers,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters. He described it as a “chaotic scene.”
In addition to the officer who was stabbed, two police suffered gunshot wounds not considered life-threatening during the melee. It wasn’t immediately clear who shot them.
All three officers are expected to recover. The suspect, who was shot repeatedly, is in custody.
Speaking at his daily briefing Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said the officer who suffered the worst injury is an immigrant born in Haiti. “They came under unprovoked attack,” he added.
He declined to speculate on the attacker’s motives, but the violence comes during a period of heightened tension as protests against police brutality have roiled New York City, with instances of looting and vandalism.
Shea said Thursday that authorities are probing multiple attacks on police since the marches began. “All of them are under investigation, the motivations behind them,” according to Shea.
“We’re in the preliminary stage of uncovering evidence, creating links and exploring links if there are any.”
Speaking Wednesday night at a press conference outside the hospital where the wounded officers were being treated, the head of New York City’s police union, Pat Lynch, demanded an end to anti-cop rhetoric.
“Did we doubt because of the rhetoric we’re hearing, the anti-police rhetoric that’s storming our streets, are we surprised that we got this call? I’m not,” he said.
Lynch, whose New York City Police Benevolent Association has opposed most major criminal justice reforms in recent years, blamed the violence in part on changes to bail laws last year by the New York Legislature.
“We can’t ignore the asinine laws that have been passed, where we put the criminals in and then let them out,” Lynch said.
There’s no indication the assailant in this case has been released on bail.
De Blasio said Thursday he still supports major reforms to policing practices in New York but has also defended the city’s officers, pointing out a majority of them are people of color.
“If we’re going to make changes, we have to do it together, and we have to have peace,” he said.
De Blasio also rejected criticism from some 230 current and former members of his staff who said in a public letter Wednesday he hadn’t moved aggressively enough to improve relations between the NYPD and the city’s black community.
Meanwhile, the FBI issued a statement Thursday saying it is aiding with investigations into assaults on police officers.
“We respond as if one of our own had been attacked,” William Sweeney, who heads the FBI’s New York field office, said on Twitter. “We will use every federal statute available to hold the perpetrator accountable.”