NEW YORK (Dec. 28)
New York Police have assigned a detective from the Bias Crimes Unit to the investigation of the murder Friday of a 39-year-old Orthodox Jewish postal worker in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Police announced the assignment following a Sunday afternoon rally in which 300 Hasidic Jews gathered in front of the offices of the Council of Jewish Organizations in Borough Park to voice their concern that the attack on Eli Wald was anti-Semitic.
“If enough people feel that there is a basis to calling a crime racially motivated, we will look into it,” said Inspector Michael Markman, commanding officer of the bias unit.
In an interview Monday, Captain Michael Seagnelli, commander of the 66th precinct, said that the bias unit would confer with homicide detectives despite “every indication” that the stabbing death of Wald was the result of “an attempted robbery that went bad.”
Seagnelli, who shared a makeshift podium at the rally with State Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn and Borough Park City Councilman Noach Dear, called Sunday’s event “very peaceful” and said no uniformed police were assigned.
Hikind, however, said those in attendance were “furious, angry people.”
“The anger I saw yesterday I haven’t seen in a long time,” he added.
On Sunday evening, major rabbinical figures from a number of Hasidic sects met at the home of Solomon Halberstam, rebbe of the Bobover sect, to discuss ways of “rebuilding” the dormant Borough Park Community Patrol, according to Hikind. Armed patrol members have been paid to monitor the streets of Borough Park from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. in marked cars. Community members are asked to contribute funds for the service, said Hikind.
Police and community leaders support the patrol, as opposed to that announced Sunday by members of the Jewish Defense League. Hikind, a Borough Park resident, called the JDL’s patrols “counterproductive,” and said that he “resents some of these people who don’t live in the community coming in here to stir up the community even more.”
Yakov Lloyd, spokesman for the JDL, acknowledged that neither he nor members of his patrol live in Borough Park.
Wald was stabbed at least 11 times near his home while walking from the subway at 1:10 a.m. in the predominately Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.
His wristwatch, knapsack and a wallet containing $2 in cash were found on his body, police said.
Hasidic Jews attending Sunday’s rally had responded to privately printed handbills displayed in the neighborhood. Hikind said that no organization claimed responsibility for convening the rally.
Besides their demands to the police, some of those attending the rally said that Wald had been buried hastily as part of a “cover-up” of the murder.
Rabbi Morris Shmidman, executive director of the Council of Jewish Organizations, denied the charge. He said Wald’s funeral was held Friday before sundown, soon after his body was released by the police, at the request of his widow.
Said Dear, the councilman: “I don’t think you can answer” whether Wald’s murder was racially motivated. He praised the police department, and said he had spoken with Mayor Ed Koch, who expressed his sympathies to Wald’s family and all concerned.
A memorial service for Wald is set for Sunday at the B’nai Israel Synagogue in Brooklyn.