NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It has now been 20 years since a shooting near the Brooklyn Bridge killed a Jewish teenager, in a case that sparked a conversation on the definition of terrorism.
As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported Saturday, the pain remained fresh for Devorah Halberstam, the mother of victim Ari Halberstam.
“We all miss him intensely; having miss him all the time,” she said.
Ari Halberstam was 16 when he was gunned down in a hail of bullets near the Brooklyn Bridge on March 1, 1994.
He was on his way back from visiting the ailing Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson at the Manhattan Eye and Ear Infirmary in the East Village.
The gunman, Lebanese-born Rashid Baz, opened fire on a van carrying more than a dozen Orthodox Jewish students.
“They shot my son right to the back of his head,” Devorah Halberstam said.
As recalled on the memorial site for Ari Halberstam, the van was beginning to cross the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan when the gunman chasing the van in a Chevrolet Caprice opened fire.
He was armed with a submachine gun, two 9mm guns and a street sweeper shotgun, and he fired in three bursts and sprayed both sides with bullets while shouting “Kill the Jews” in Arabic, before vanishing into traffic on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, the site said.
Police caught up to Baz when he was seen holding a gun to the proprietor’s head an auto repair shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn, demanding that he repair the windows to the car, CBS 2 reporter Chris Borgen reported at the time.
The auto repair shop owner called police, who traced Baz to his home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder and four counts of consecutive murder, and sentenced to life in prison.
Years later, the case was reclassified as terrorism. Devorah Halberstam said it was an important point to set straight the historical record.
“It was with intent,” She said. “It was deliberate as is a terrorist attack in order to make a political statement.”
Devorah Halberstam said the attack shed a light on home-grown terrorism, as a precursor to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and a call always to remain vigilant.
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