“This was not an idle threat. This was a real threat,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference Monday. “It is my duty to protect Jewish New Yorkers from antisemitism.”
Christopher Brown, 21, and Matthew Maherer, 22, allegedly had a firearm, a high-capacity magazine, ammunition, an 8-inch-long military-style knife, a swastika arm patch, a ski mask, and a bulletproof vest when they were arrested Friday, officials said. Both were arraigned Sunday.
The men were arrested without incident after they were spotted walking into Penn Station and going down an escalator, according to an MTA officer.
“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,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. “Hateful antisemitic targeting of synagogues is deplorable. I am grateful to our law enforcement partners — the NYPD and the FBI — for their quick intervention in apprehending these individuals before they could carry out any attack.”
Before their arrest, the pair met up at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral because they wanted to get a blessing, Brown told police. From there, they got a ride to Pennsylvania, allegedly to buy a gun from a man named Jay, according to court documents.
“I wanted to get a gun. I cash app paid Matt $650 for the gun. However, I changed my mind because I was nervous about the police and didn’t want the gun anymore, but Matt bought it anyway from Jay,” Brown said, according to the criminal complaint. “I was there when Matt bought the gun from Jay. We were playing with the gun. I held the gun and then gave it to Matt, who put it in his book bag. We drove back to Manhattan.”
Brown tweeted about their plans from the account @VrillGod, court documents show. On Nov. 12, “big moves being made on Friday,” was tweeted.
“Brutally murder people with hatchets and whatnot,” was tweeted in a Nov. 16 video. “How it feels to kill people.”
The next day, there was another tweet: “Gonna ask a Priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die.”
On Friday, before their arrest, “This time I’m really gonna do it” was tweeted from the account.
“I have a sick personality,” Brown said, according to his criminal complaint. “I was going to be a coward and blow my brains out with it. It took me three years to finally buy the gun. Matt is one of my followers. I have Nazi paraphernalia in my house. I think it is really cool. I also operate a white supremacist Twitter group.”
Brown now faces charges of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, making a terroristic threat, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree as a crime of terrorism, criminal possession of a firearm and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.
Mahrer faces charges of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, criminal possession of a firearm, and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.
“The Manhattan D.A.’s office will now pursue accountability and justice in this case with the full resources of our counter-terrorism program and recently enhanced and expanded hate crimes unit,” Bragg said. “We do not tolerate illegal guns or hate in this city.”
Watch Mayor Adams’ full news conference below.
Mahrer was arraigned around midnight. Prosecutors asked that he be remanded to custody without bail, but the court set bail at $150,000 cash or $300,000 bail (partially secured or insurance company bond).
Brown was arraigned later on Sunday. He was remanded to custody without bail.