Wall Street Journal
October 24, 2014


Man Who Struck NYPD Officers with Ax Shot to Death


The Suspect in the Queens Attack Was Pronounced Dead While the Officer Was Taken to Jamaica Hospital

By PERVAIZ SHALLWANI

 PETER J. SMITH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Investigators and detectives on Jamaica Avenue, where police shot a man wielding an ax.

A man who charged at New York City police officers while swinging a hatchet was shot and killed Thursday afternoon after he struck two officers, including one in the head, Commissioner William Bratton said.

A 29-year-old woman who was a half block from the scene was accidentally shot and seriously injured during the incident, which took place along a busy commercial stretch in the Jamaica section of Queens, Mr. Bratton said.

The commissioner said police had established no immediate motive for the attack. Two law-enforcement officials identified the suspect as Zale Thompson, 32. The investigation was continuing Thursday night.

A surveillance video released by police shows a bearded man in a green hooded coat running on the sidewalk, raising the hatchet from his side to over his head and swinging it with both hands.

Mr. Bratton said there was nothing to indicate the incident was terror-related, but said it was too early to make a final determination.

As a precaution, the NYPD sent a memo Thursday evening to all uniformed officers in light of the attack and one earlier this week in Ottawa, Canada, advising them to remain “vigilant at all times in order to prevent attacks and injuries.”

The incident occurred around 2 p.m. near 162nd Street and Jamaica Avenue along a stretch outside a department store that would have been even more crowded if not for the heavy rain, Mr. Bratton said.

Four uniformed officers on patrol as part of the NYPD’s Operation Impact initiative were standing near the corner when the attacker approached the officers and began swinging the hatchet, police said.

The officers, recent police academy graduates assigned to foot patrol in the 103rd precinct, had been posing for a photo being taken by a freelance photographer, Mr. Bratton said.

The suspect first struck Officer Joseph Meeker, 24, in the arm. He was scheduled to be released from the hospital Thursday night, Mr. Bratton said.

The man then struck Officer Kenneth Healey, 25, in back of the head, resulting in a “very serious injury,” Mr. Bratton said. He was listed in critical but stable condition and was undergoing surgery Thursday night.

The two remaining officers then fired their service weapons striking the suspect several times, Mr. Bratton said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

The woman accidentally shot was struck once in the lower back and was later listed in critical condition at Jamaica Hospital where she was undergoing surgery for her injuries, police said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the officers for their actions.

“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,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Pat Lynch, the president of the police union that represents the officers said, “Something they never thought would happen, happened. Their training kicked in. They immediately responded and took control of the situation.”

Mr. Bratton said the photographer is cooperating with police as a witness and has allowed detectives to look at his photos for any evidence.

As part of the investigation, police have also recovered video from the scene and were combing through the images for any evidence, he said.