Man threatens to shoot up Jewish day camp on Long Island over lack of masks, social distancing

INWOOD, Long Island (WABC) -- A Long Island man who owned an array of weapons was arrested after police say he threatened to shoot up an Orthodox Jewish day camp over social distancing violations.

Nassau County police received a complaint that the yeshiva day camp was violating COVID-19 restrictions with "approximately 500 students were wearing no masks," and while officers were en route, they said the man called again and threatened to get a gun and shoot the individuals at the location if the police didn't get there.

"If I got to go out there with a freaking machine gun and shoot all these people, I will," he allegedly said.

Authorities say that when the officers arrived at the Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island, located on Doughty Boulevard in Inwood, there were 30 children with their parents at the day camp.

The caller, identified as 58-year-old Nicola Pelle, who lives next to the yeshiva, was taken into custody.

"We are very thrilled with the police response, we are very thankful to the police for being on top of it," principal Rabbi Tzvi Krigsman Menahel said. "They've been extremely informative, transparent, and we are very thankful to them, and we feel secure, and we're confident in the safety of our children and staff."

Police say Pelle, who runs a landscaping business and handles a lot of cash, is a licensed pistol holder.

At his home, authorities recovered 14 weapons -- all legal except for a Bushmaster .223 rifle that was banned under the New York State Safe Act because of its pistol grip and a detachable clip.

"Our officers did an outstanding job for questioning the subject, got him to admit he made that complaint, did make the threat to 'shoot the school up,' and then going in and recovering the weapons," Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

Authorities said Pelle has no criminal history. His business permit has been revoked.

He is charged with making terroristic threat and weapons possession.

Pelle's neighbors discounted the threat, describing him as a decent man who is recovering from recent cancer surgery.

"He made the remark, came out of his mouth, it is what it is," neighbor Anthony Rivelli said. "He just wasn't making sense, so I knew something was wrong. So I think we got a little over reaction."

They were sympathetic but admitted the allegations are shocking.

"He didn't mean it," said another neighbor who wanted to remain anonymous. "He's a local guy from Inwood, and he didn't mean it."

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