An NYPD rookie is in critical condition and another police officer is in stable condition after being attacked by a man wielding a hatchet on a Queens street Thursday, police said.
Two other officers fired on the man, stopping the attack. The assailant was pronounced dead at the scene. A 29-year-old female bystander was also struck by a bullet and underwent surgery at Jamaica Hospital, where she's recovering, officials said.
The officers, all recent graduates of the Police Academy assigned to the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica, were asked to pose for a picture by a freelance photographer at the intersection of 162nd Street and Jamaica Avenue shortly before 2 p.m. when the man attacked them from behind, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
The suspect "charged at the officers with a hatchet in his hand," Bratton said. "Unprovoked and not speaking a word, the male then swung at one of the officers with a hatchet, striking his right arm. After striking that officer, the suspect continuing swinging the hatchet, striking a second officer in the head."
The metal hatchet was about 18 inches long.
Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as 32-year-old Zale Thompson.
There were some initial concerns Thompson may have been inspired in part by images of radical terrorists overseas, according to law enforcement officials. But a review of some of the suspect's social media postings and interviews with people who know him paint a picture of a disturbed loner who was angry about what he said was oppression of black Americans in the U.S., according to the officials.
Thompson had been arrested several times in California, including multiple times for assault and domestic violence, officials there say.
The 25-year-old officer who was struck in the head, Taylor Kraft, underwent surgery Thursday night and his family, several of whom are NYPD members, was keeping vigil at Jamaica Hospital, Bratton said. The 24-year-old officer who was struck in the arm, Joseph Meeker, was treated and released.
Following the attacks on uniformed soldiers in Canada on Wednesday, the NYPD issued a warning for officers to be in a heightened state of awareness.