BY JORDAN GIBBONS
On Thursday afternoon, four NYPD officers from the 103rd Precinct were attacked on Jamaica Avenue by a man wielding a hatchet. The man was shot dead by the officers after two officers were wounded and an innocent bystander was struck by a stray bullet.
One officer was hit in the arm and another was struck in the head. Both officers were taken to Jamaica Hospital to be treated for their wounds. The 29-year-old woman was also taken to Jamaica Hospital, where she is in stable condition and recovering from surgery, according to Commissioner William Bratton.
At about 2 p.m., a freelance photographer asked the officers to pose for a picture in front of Conways at the intersection of Jamaica Avenue and 162nd Street. The assailant approached them from behind and hit the first 24-year-old officer in the arm and the second 25-year-old officer in the head without speaking a word, according to Bratton.
The other two officers fired multiple shots and killed the man, identified as 32-year-old Zale Thompson. The woman was accidentally hit with a bullet in her lower back a half a block away from the incident.
The weapon used by Thompson was an 18-and-a-half inch metal hatchet. No known motive for the attack has been established and Bratton said he was unprovoked.
Bratton said at a press conference at Jamaica Hospital that doctors told him the officer who was struck in the head remained conscious and alert at the hospital, which is normally a good sign.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, who was also at the press conference, commended the officers for their quick response to the incident.
“These are police officers who were standing their post, interacting with the community, in the rain, doing their job – and something they never thought would happen, absolutely happened,” Lynch said. “Their training kicked in, they immediately responded, they took control of the situation – even though one of their partners was laying on the ground, seriously injured.”
The four officers were all fresh out of the Police Academy, having graduated in July.
Mayor Bill de Blasio complimented the cops on their ability, commitment and response to the attack.
“I was very impressed by not only their bravery in the face of something absolutely unexpected, but the way that the two officers responded to this incident and were able to immediately stop the situation and deal with the perpetrator,” he said. “So, three rookie cops, absolutely modest about what happened today and what they did – thank God – all in good condition.”
When the Commissioner was asked if the photographer could have been involved, he denied any connection.
“We have his camera and what photos he may have taken,” he said. “He is working with us, giving us very valuable information of the events. We see at this time no connectivity at all with his actions in any way, shape, or form being linked to the actions of the deceased perpetrator.”
At a press conference on Friday, Bratton said that it was certainly a terrorist attack. The NYPD obtained a warrant to search Thompson’s computer for evidence, which led Bratton to that conclusion. Bratton also said that since Thompson was walking with the ax, there was some preparation, but it appeared to be a spontaneous attack.
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.