MIDTOWN — A man swinging an 11-inch meat cleaver was shot by police near Penn Station on Thursday after he sliced a 6-inch gash into an off-duty detective's head, the NYPD said.
Police officers chased Akram Joudeh, 32, to West 32nd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues around 5 p.m. when he swung his cleaver and hit off-duty detective Brian O'Donnell in the head, officials and sources said.
Responding officers then fired a total of 18 shots at Joudeh, striking him several times, police said. The detective was in serious condition and the suspect was in critical but stable condition.
"We have a character running down the street waving a cleaver. Despite that, the officers approached him to try and take him into custody," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said during an evening press conference at the scene of the shooting. "I want to commend them on their bravery and performance.”
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton speaks at a press conference after officers shot a man who attacked an off-duty detective with a meat cleaver on Sept. 15, 2016. (DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg)
Officers first approached Joudeh after responding to calls that he was trying to take a parking boot off his car.
When they approached him at 31st Street and Broadway and started to question him, Joudeh pulled the cleaver out of his waistband and started to run.
Jonathan Schneier, 28, was standing on the intersection of West 32nd Street and Sixth Avenue when he saw police run toward the man as he stood on the corner grasping the meat cleaver.
Police shouted for him to drop the weapon, but Joudeh did not say a word or respond to their demands, Schneier said.
"He looked like a deer in the headlights," Schneier said.
Without warning, he suddenly dashed down West 32nd Street toward Seventh Avenue and officers followed in pursuit, Schneier said.
"Once he started sprinting, it was a little scary," Schneier added.
The off-duty detective, who was going to Penn Station on his way home, came to the officers' aid as they tried to Taser the man, police officials said at the news conference.
That's when the man swung his meat cleaver and hit the off-duty detective in the face, cutting him from his temple to his jaw, the NYPD said.
Three officers, including a sergeant's driver, opened fire and hit the attacker in the chest, sources said.
When people in the crowd heard gunshots, they dropped to the ground, according to Schneier. In the fray, two of those officers were wounded, including rookie Nicholas Mazzola, who was grazed by a bullet above his right hip, and Nelson Tejada, who sustained unknown injuries, sources said.
The injured officer was carried away, and there was "significant blood," he said.
Corey Melton, 34, heard five gunshots and saw a crowd of people running toward him as he stood on the corner of West 32nd Street and Seventh Avenue, he said.
Melton walked toward the mayhem and saw officers and emergency responders hovering over a body, as well as bullet holes in a nearby car's windshield, he said.
O'Donnell and Joudeh were both transported to Bellevue Hospital, NYPD Chief of Department James O'Neill said during the press conference.
As of about 7:15 p.m., the detective was in serious condition and Joudeh was in stable but critical condition, O'Neill said.
Joudeh's last known address was in Elmhurst, but NYPD investigators believe he was living in his car, O'Neill said.
Joudeh has been arrested more than 10 times in both New York and New Jersey, officials said.
He was arrested in 2009 for unauthorized use of a vehicle then twice in January 2010 for trying to trespass and menacing someone with a knife, an NYPD spokesman said.
He was arrested the next month for criminal possession of stolen property and then in July 2011 for driving while high on drugs, police said.
In August 2011, he was arrested in Essex County, New Jersey on immigration charges and spent the next year behind bars, Garden State records show.
In 2013, he was charged with criminal mischief, police said.
He was arrested four other times since then, but those records are sealed, an NYPD spokesman said.
Mazzola and Tejada were treated for injuries that weren't considered life-threatening, police said.
O'Donnell later described the scene to investigators.
“I didn’t want the guy to outrun the police," he said about tackling the cleaver-wielding suspect, according to sources.