'This time I'm really gonna do it': Jewish analyst identified alarming tweets hinting NYC synagogue threat

'This time I'm really gonna do it': Jewish analyst identified alarming tweets hinting NYC synagogue threat
Criminal charges against Christopher Brown (L) and Matthew Mahrer (R) included criminal possession of a firearm and making a terroristic threat (FBI search poster/website, MatthewMahrer/Facebook)

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK: A person who discovered ominous tweets hinting at a deliberate attack and alerted the New York City Police Department stopped a plan to blow up a Manhattan synagogue. The potentially fatal threat against the city's Jewish community was stopped when the NYPD detained Christopher Brown, 21, and Matthew Mahrer, 22, and recovered guns at Penn Station. 

The analyst's filters designed to find potential online threats identified a string of disturbing comments from the non-existing Twitter account @VrilGod linked to Brown. On November 12, Brown declared, "Big moves being made on Friday." On Thursday, he tweeted, "Gonna ask a Priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die." He followed up on Friday by declaring, "This time I'm really gonna do it."


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When the analyst, who wished to remain anonymous, reported the tweets, Mitchell Silber, the director of the UJA-Federation of New York's Community Security Initiative, told the New York Times that "alarm bells went off." Following a police inquiry, Brown and Mahrer were taken into custody last Friday, November 18 just before midnight.

Ever since celebrities like rapper Kanye West and basketball star Kyrie Irving have faced criticism for antisemitic statements on social media, there have been more instances of harassment and bullying against Jews and Jewish organizations countrywide. An individual with "extreme extremist ideas" was questioned by federal agents in connection with a possible threat at synagogues in New Jersey this month. Gov Kathy Hochul gave the State Police specific instructions to step up surveillance and assistance for areas that could be the target of hate crimes. Hochul also authorized the creation of a new campaign to advance inclusion and tolerance under the state's Division of Human Rights and legislation mandating sensitivity education and training for those convicted of racist violence. According to Silber, the analysts on his team who alerted the police to the danger were keeping an eye on filters that trawl the internet for potential local assaults using search terms like "Jewish, New York, synagogue, kill, shoot, and die." 

According to Silber, the program was developed in response to the 2018 Pittsburgh mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, which claimed the lives of 11 worshipers. The filters go through popular social media sites including Facebook and Twitter as well as 4chan, 8chan, Gab.com, and Telegraph. Because "they were talking about action" and included a time and day, the tweets sent on Friday morning from the account associated with Brown stood out among the online antisemitic bile. The security team discovered several internet identities related to Brown that also made reference to other dangers. At around 2 pm, city police officers received notification of the alleged threat in New York City.

According to the police, Brown lately showed interest in traveling to New York to purchase a gun and had a history of mental illness. Additionally, Mahrer was one of Brown's followers on a white nationalist Twitter network, which Brown had disclosed to the investigators. When questioned by police about the attacks and the gun, Brown allegedly responded that he has "a sick personality," according to a criminal complaint published by the New York Post. "I was going to be a coward and blow my brains out with it," he told police after his arrest. Brown also said as per the complaint, "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's really cool."

Additionally, according to reports, Brown posted a video of himself announcing his intention to "brutally murder people with hatchets and whatnot." After arresting Mahrer's parents, who he shared a home with, authorities discovered a revolver and a bulletproof vest inside their flat. On Monday, Mahrer's relatives and the prosecution claimed that the 22-year-old is Jewish and that his grandfather survived the Holocaust. Holocaust survivor Stuart Rubenstein, Mahrer's grandfather, became alarmed by the upsetting information about his grandson. According to The Daily News, he claimed that he "never figured he [his grandson] would get involved in something like this." "He's Jewish, you know?" Rubenstein stated. "The other kid was more involved. The other kid must have talked him into it."

MEAWW reported earlier, Brown has been charged with six counts of having guns in his possession in addition to the terrorist threat allegation. He is detained without bail. Mahrer also remains in custody on a $150,000 bail. At the time of their arrest, the two had a "high-capacity" magazine, ammo, a "military-style" knife, and Nazi relics, as per Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

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