NEW YORK—A hatchet-wielding man who charged at four rookie New York City police officers Thursday as they posed for a photograph on a Queens street was shot and killed after he struck one of the officers in the head and another in the arm, William J. Bratton, the police commissioner, said.
Stray police bullets also struck a 29-year-old woman in the lower back as she walked in the rain about half a block away along a normally crowded commercial stretch of Jamaica Avenue just after 2 p.m.
The man, who was not immediately identified by the police and whose motive for the attack remained unclear, died at the scene. The police recovered a blue-handled, 18-inch hatchet, and Bratton displayed a photograph of the weapon at a news conference at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center on Thursday evening.
“At this point, no known motive for this attack has been established,” Bratton said.
Kenneth Healey, a 25-year-old recent graduate of the Police Academy, was in critical but stable condition after suffering a “very serious injury to the back side of his head,” Bratton said. The officer struck in the arm, Joseph Meeker, 24, was expected to be released.
The bystander who was struck during the chaotic scene was in stable condition after surgery, also at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, he said.
The burst of violence occurred on the sidewalk in front of a department store where the four uniformed officers were standing on a regularly assigned foot patrol Payday Loan for Bad Credit. A passer-by asked to photograph the officers, Bratton said, and they obliged.
As they did so, standing together, a man in a hooded green rain jacket approached quickly from down the block, pulled a hatchet from his clothes, raised it over his head and, appearing to say nothing, brought it down on the officers with two hands, video released by the police showed.
The man first hit one officer in the arm and, continuing to swing, hit another in the head, Bratton said. A witness to the attack said that blow appeared to be particularly severe. “His head was split open from here to here,” said the witness, Mick Jones, 52, tracing a finger from his forehead to the back of his head. “His hat probably saved his life.”
The two other officers drew their weapons and fired multiple times at the man, killing him, Bratton said.
Standing beside the police commissioner, Mayor Bill de Blasio described the actions of the young officers as “bravery in the face of something absolutely unexpected.” He added, “They responded exactly as their training dictated.”
Bratton said the photographer and the attacker appeared to have no connection. The photographer, he added, has been cooperating with detectives to piece together what occurred, including providing the police with the photos he had taken.
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