What to Know
- The suspect had been fleeing cops near Penn Station after they caught him trying to remove a boot from his car.
- The off-duty detective say police chasing the weapon-wielding man and tackled the suspect, who slashed him
- Police fired 18 shots, hitting the suspect several times
The off-duty detective who was gashed from his temple to his jaw when he tackled a man fleeing police with an 11-inch cleaver in a chaotic attack near Penn Station at the height of Thursday's evening rush left the hospital Friday afternoon.
A small army of NYPD officers and union representatives, along with the father of detective Brian O'Donnell, cheered on the 16-year veteran officer as he was wheeled out of the lobby of Bellevue Hospital. O'Donnell, who appeared to be wearing a cast on his left arm and had an apparent cut running down his face waved to cops and doctors as he exited the hospital.
His fellow officers clapped, hollered and cheered as the officer was loaded into a sedan to head home. An NYPD regiment of bagpipe players and drummers also played as he left the lobby. Surgeons had said O'Donnell would likely need reconstructive surgery to repair the 6-inch gash to his face.
O'Donnell was walking to Penn Station shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday to catch a Long Island Rail Road train home after work when he saw the suspect, 32-year-old Akram Joudeh, running from police, the weapon in his hand, law enforcement officials told NBC 4 New York. He went to tackle the suspect.
The two struggled, and Joudeh hit him in the head with the cleaver, leaving a large laceration, police officials said.
Surveillance video obtained exclusively by NBC 4 New York showed the chaos on the street as officers sprinted after Joudeh, who ran through the packed street with the cleaver in his hand.
Three uniformed NYPD officers fired a total of 18 gunshots at Joudeh, striking him several times. He was in stable condition at the hospital Friday.
"Keep in mind he had just attacked an off-duty officer who has got a 6-inch gash on his face. He's got an 11-inch cleaver," NYPD Chief of Department and incoming police commissioner Jimmy O'Neill said. "They shot until the threat was stopped."
Police initially confronted Joudeh near West 31st Street and Broadway as they caught him trying to remove a boot from his car, O'Neill said.
Video obtained exclusively by NBC 4 New York shows a frustrated Joudeh trying to remove the boot, pulling tools from his packed car.
When police arrived, Joudeh pulled an 11-inch cleaver from his waistband and began running toward Sixth Avenue, officials said. Officers chased him, with others joining the pursuit along the way, and one uniformed sergeant deployed a stun gun to no effect.
The suspect continued running westbound on West 32nd Street toward Seventh Avenue, and in the middle of the block, mounted the front grill of a marked NYPD car, O'Neill said. Then he ran into O'Donnell.
O'Donnell has spent most of his time on the force in the 19th Precinct, and became a detective in March 2015.
Two other officers were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries from the encounter, though it's not clear how they got hurt.
Both Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who is finishing his last week on the job, visited the officers at the hospital. Bratton said the wounded detective was in good spirits despite the "significant injury."
The attack happened near the busy midtown commuter hub at the height of the evening rush hour. Bratton said the officers acted bravely in subduing the suspect in the crowded shopping and transit district, and that "sufficient shots" were fired to stop the "character running down the street waving a cleaver."
Witness Steven Coyle, who recorded video of officers shooting at the suspect, agreed.
"He was a threat to the officers and anyone in the area," he said.
Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, said in a statement, "An incident like this proves that you are really never off duty. Our detective engaged the perpetrator because the suspect was carrying a meat cleaver and the detective was worried about the crowded conditions on the street given that it was rush hour full of residents, tourists and commuters."
Joudeh has 15 prior arrests, including one on July 27 after he was found carrying knives near a synagogue in the Manhattan Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn. His last known address was in Queens, though police say he may have been living in his car.
The other arrests stretching back to 2009 include charges for driving while impaired by drugs, criminal possession of a weapon, menacing with a weapon and criminal trespassing, sources said.
The attack drew comparisons to an ambush two years ago, when a hatchet-wielding man attacked a group of NYPD officers in Jamaica, Queens, gashing a rookie cop in the head with the 18-inch ax. Two other officers shot and killed the suspect, Zale Thompson, on the street.
Thompson was a self-radicalized "lone wolf terrorist," police officials said after the attack.
A federal official told NBC News it doesn't appear Joudeh had terroristic motivations.
"Based on what we know of how this started, and on his priors, we don't currently think this was an act of terrorism," the officials said.
Another law enforcement source told NBC 4 New York that investigators actively looked into whether Joudeh had any interest in or connection to terror planning after he was caught outside the synagogue in July with the knives. But they did not find any evidence of any radicalization.
Joudeh's former neighbors in Elmhurst described him as troubled, constantly fighting with his two roommates and sometimes getting visits from police. One woman who asked not to be identified said he once got into an altercation with a family member, and during the fight, broke the front glass door of the building's entrance.