A Teaneck man has been arrested on aggravated assault, weapons possession and other charges for allegedly smashing the windows of a New Jersey pediatric office with a hammer as terrified patients and medical staff barricaded themselves inside.
Camwren Cole first walked into the office complex on Palisade Avenue around noon Sunday and started bashing in the windows of Riverside Pediatrics, police said the next day. Responding officers didn't immediately see him at the scene.
Then cops got another 911 call about a hammer attack -- this time at Parisian Cleaners on Cedar Lane. Responding officers found Cole there and apprehended him without incident. They say he appeared to show signs of mental illness and was taken to a local hospital for treatment and evaluation.
One injury was reported in the chaos: A receptionist at the pediatric office who was hit in the nose with a glass shard as the windows shattered. She is expected to be OK.
Jill Gordon and her daughter were at Riverside Pediatrics and had gone to the bathroom before the 10-year-old's appointment when they heard the commotion outside.
"I open the door and there’s a man in front of me with blood dripping down his arm, holding a hammer and he says, 'are you Jewish?' And I thought, I’m not answering that question and I slammed the door and locked it," Gordon said Monday.
Her daughter hid behind a garbage can, and she grabbed a container of bleach— the only makeshift weapon she could find. They waited in petrified silence for close to 10 minutes until the police told them it was safe to come out.
Photos from inside the pediatric office in Teaneck show the aftermath of the hammer attack, one Gordon believes was motivated by hate.
"If this isn’t prejudice, I don’t know what is. He was looking for Jewish people in the pediatrician’s office in a heavily Jewish area, that seems like a hate crime to me," Gordon said.
Police in Teaneck arrested the 23-year-old on multiple charges, but not with a hate crime. Congressman Josh Gottheimer says New Jersey has the second most anti-Semitic attacks in the county, and wonders why this one isn't being treated as such.
"Imagine someone coming after you with a hammer with blood dripping from it and asking you if you’re Jewish? That’s why we need to investigate this and see it through," Gottheimer said.
Cole remains in custody while receiving treatment at Holy Name Medical Center, officials said. Once he's cleared, he'll be turned over to the Bergen County Sheriff's Office pending an initial appearance in Superior Court.
It wasn't immediately clear early Monday afternoon if Cole had retained an attorney.