Rooftop standoff over in Queens

April 2, 2008 4:27:21 AM PDT
A bizzare and violent standoff with police in Queens is over Tuesday night.It started when a man wielding a machete slashed a rabbi. Then, moments later, when police arrived, the suspect threw a molotov cocktail at the officer's cruiser.

It happened on Hillside Avenue and 123rd Street in Richmond Hill.

Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Pegues has the latest.

It looks like the rabbi was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He just happened to be walking by after getting off a train when the suspect snapped. Then, the chain of events unfolded.

A cop car burned on 123rd Street.

'I saw a guy on the rooftop just light a bottle of some liquid and throw it down," a resident said.

The unmarked car was torched by a molotov cocktail, tossed by a 21-year-old man who apparently "had a bad day."

"He seemed to be very distraught," NYPD detective Hassan Hamdy said. "He wasn't really keying in on anything in particular. He just didn't want to come down.''

It was ESU's job to get the suspect off the roof after he allegedly tossed the homemade explosives at the cops. And that was after he attacked the 45-year-old Rabbi with a machete.

"Obviously a Jewish man with a nice beard with a big black hat, and it was very obvious who he was," a witness said.

The victim suffered a three-inch cut to his head before he escaped.

"He fought him off," the witness said. "He knocked the machete out of his hands. He picked up the machete. He came to his friend's house, and he said call the ambulance.''

And the police came to the scene as well, evacuating residents.

Eventually, the suspect was talked into surrendering. But what sparked the attack?

"He said he was having a bad day yesterday," Detective Robert Zajac said. "We were trying to tell him today is a different day, and we'll work it out with you.''

The suspect, identified as Felipe Velasquez, was transported to the hospital for evaluation and to be questioned by police. The rabbi did not suffer life-threatening injuries.