Cops no longer think Teaneck kosher shop incident was bias crime
TEANECK — On second thought, police say, a confrontation at a kosher bagel shop does not appear to be a hate crime.
Township police on Wednesday said that they were investigating a possible bias incident on Tuesday in which a man got angry and violent with customers at Sammy's Bagels on Queen Anne Road, telling several men to remove their hats. One of the men got scratched in the face during a shoving match and physical confrontation.
A published report in a Jewish media outlet claimed that the man had made an anti-Semitic remark but police never publicly reported that and police told the Daily Voice that that had neither been confirmed by police nor alleged by any of the victims in a signed complaint.
None of the victims have pressed any charges of harassment against the man, who has had previous run-ins with police and was described by a law enforcement source who spoke with NorthJersey.com as possibly being mentally troubled.
Chief Glenn O'Reilly said in a written statement Wednesday night that the man went into the bagel shop about 11:47 a.m. the previous day and got into a verbal dispute with a patron "by using an expletive while telling him to take off his hat. He confronted a second patron inside the store using the same language. This second confrontation turned into a shoving match at which time the patron received a scratch to his face."
The man left the store made the same comment to a third person who confronted him on Palisade Avenue, police said.
Several hours after releasing this statement, police issued another statement saying that investigators with the police department and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office had determined that the incident had not been motivated by bias.
The decision was criticized by Deputy Mayor Elie Y. Katz, who said Thursday that the state's "bias crime laws are either so weak or convoluted that the bar seems to be impossible to reach."
Earlier this month, gunmen who seem to have had ties with a black nationalist movement barged with guns blazing into a kosher supermarket neighboring a Jewish school in Jersey City, killing a store clerk, a Jewish store owner and a Jewish patron after having fatally shot a police officer on another block minutes earlier.
After that massacre, officials in Jersey City and New York condemned the attack as an anti-Semitic hate crime and criticized state and federal officials for being slow to ascribe motives to the shooters, although state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said days after the attack that the shooters appeared to have been “fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.” The FBI later described the attack as an act of "domestic terrorism," although technically there is no such crime under federal law.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.