The still-grieving mother of a 16-year old Orthodox Jewish boy, who was killed when his student van was shot up on the Brooklyn Bridge in March 1994, reacted Monday to the public revelation that a Lebanese-born cab driver targeted the students solely because they were Jewish.
“It was one of the early cases of terrorism in New York City,” Devorah Halberstam told PIX 11, about the case that was originally called an incident of road rage. “They thought if they didn’t acknowledge it, it would go away…..it only escalated.”
The New York Post reported Monday that Rashid Baz, convicted in 1995, finally told investigators in 2007 that he stalked the van, because it was carrying young, Orthodox Jews who had prayed for their grand rebbe outside a Manhattan hospital.
Baz ultimately admitted the shooting, where he used a machine gun and Glock to fire off 40 rounds on the van, was retaliation for an attack three days earlier in 1994, when a Jewish settler from Brooklyn massacred 29 Arabs inside a mosque in Hebron.
When the investigators asked Baz if he would have targeted the van, if the occupants were black or Latino, he said, “No, I only shot them because they were Jewish.” 16 students were in the van on March 1, 1994, and most were injured.
And she’s still angry law enforcement didn’t get more out of Baz, regarding alleged accomplices. “He never acknowledged who gave him the machine gun,” Halberstam told PIX 11. She noted the weapon was kept inside a closet inside the Brooklyn home of Baz’ uncle, along with a “street sweeper”. “Rashid Baz was not the only one who was involved in this case,” Halberstam insisted Monday. “And they let it go.”
Halberstam, now a grandmother, has spent nearly two decades getting anti-terrorism laws passed. In 2000, the FBI finally designated the Brooklyn Bridge shooting an act of terror, seven years before Rashid Baz made his admissions.
Baz is serving 141 years inside a New York State prison, but Halberstam is upset he’s not in one of the federal prisons out west, with other, convicted terrorists. “A person who committed terrorism needs to be in 24-hour lockdown in Colorado,” Halberstam said, referring to the high-security prison where some other terrorists are housed in the United States.
Baz was not tried in a terrorism conspiracy case, so that’s why he remains in a state prison here in New York. PIX 11 reported several years ago that Baz was once assigned to the office of the prison imam, giving him access to phones. Halberstam said this means he was able to call other radicals….and spread his beliefs. “He was mainstreamed, so he mingles with the general population,” Halberstam observed.
Even though it’s been eighteen years since her son was killed, Halberstam still weeps when talking about him. She showed us a photo showing a curly-haired, blue eyed Ari at age 4.
“He was my oldest child,” she told PIX 11. “I yearn for my child….always.”