NYPD officer attacked by man with cleaver, suspect shot: sources

Photo: NBC New York
Photo: NBC New York

(NBC New York) — A man attacked an off-duty NYPD officer with a cleaver outside Penn Station at the height of the evening rush hour Thursday, wounding the cop in the face before being shot 18 times by police, officials say.

Police initially confronted 32-year-old Akram Joudeh near West 31st Street and Broadway as they caught him trying to remove a boot from his car, NYPD Chief of Department and incoming NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill said at a briefing Thursday evening.

Joudeh pulled out an 11-inch cleaver from his waistband and began running toward Sixth Avenue, officials said. Officers chased after him, with others joining the pursuit along the way, and one uniformed sergeant deployed a stun gun to no effect.

The suspect continued running westbound on West 32nd Street toward Seventh Avenue, and in the middle of the block, mounted the front grill of a marked NYPD car, O’Neill said.

That’s when an off-duty detective, who was on his way home from court at Penn Station, tried to subdue Joudeh. Joudeh hit him in the head with the cleaver, leaving a six-inch gash from the temple to the jaw, said O’Neill.

Three uniformed NYPD officers fired a total of 18 gunshots at Joudeh, striking him several times.

“Keep in mind [the suspect] had just attacked an off-duty officer who’s got a six-inch gash on his face. He’s got an 11-inch cleaver,” said O’Neill. “They shot until the threat was stopped.”

The off-duty detective was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he’s listed in serious condition, officials said. Two other officers were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries from the encounter, though it’s not clear how they got hurt.

Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who was finishing his last day on the job, visited the officers at the hospital. Bratton said the wounded detective was in good spirits despite the “significant injury.”

Joudeh was also taken to Bellevue Hospital, and he’s in critical but stable condition, said O’Neill. He has been moved to the operating room.

The attack happened near the busy Midtown commuter hub at the height of the evening rush hour. Bratton said the officers acted bravely in subduing the suspect on a densely packed street, and that “sufficient shots” were fired to stop the “character running down the street waving a cleaver.”

Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, said in a statement, “An incident like this proves that you are really never off duty. Our detective engaged the perpetrator because the suspect was carrying a meat cleaver and the detective was worried about the crowded conditions on the street given that it was rush hour full of residents, tourists and commuters.”

Joudeh has 15 prior arrests, including one on Aug. 27 after he was found carrying knives near a synagogue. His last known address was in Queens, though police say he may have been living in his car.

West 32nd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues was temporarily shut down as police investigated. The FBI also sent agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force to the scene as a precaution, an official said.

Two years ago, a hatchet-wielding man ambushed a group of NYPD officers in Jamaica, Queens, gashing a rookie cop in the head with the 18-inch ax. Two other officers shot and killed the suspect, Zale Thompson, on the street.

Thompson was a self-radicalized “lone wolf terrorist,” police officials said after the attack.

In Thursday’s incident, a federal official told NBC News “based on what we know of how this started, and on his priors, we don’t currently think this was an act of terrorism.”

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