A New York man allegedly threatened to start a shooting while making a social distancing complaint about a Jewish day camp, officials said.
Nicola Pelle, 58, of Inwood, Long Island, was charged with making terroristic threats after allegedly saying he was going to shoot people at the Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island's children's camp, the Nassau County Police Department said Tuesday.
According to police, Pelle reported a COVID-19 social distancing violation at the yeshiva's camp on Monday. He allegedly complained that "approximately 500 students were wearing no masks," police said. While officers were en route to the camp, Pelle called again, officials said, this time allegedly threatening to "get a gun and shoot" if the police didn't get there.
"If I gotta go out there with a friggin' machine gun and shoot all these people, I will," Pelle allegedly said on the call, Nassau County Police Department Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at a press briefing Tuesday.
During the police investigation, Pelle identified himself as the caller, officials said. Nassau County police arrested Pelle, who lives next door to the yeshiva, on Monday.
Following the arrest, police seized 14 weapons as evidence, including five handguns, rifles, shotguns and two assault weapons, officials said.
"Our officers did an outstanding job by questioning the subject, getting him to admit that he did make that complaint and did make the threat to shoot the school up, and then going in and recovering the weapons," Ryder said.
All the weapons were legal, save for a Bushmaster .223 rifle, which is illegal under the New York State Safety Act because it has a pistol grip and a detachable clip, Ryder said.
Pelle has a valid Nassau County Pistol Permit, police said.
Pelle was arraigned on Tuesday and charged with making a terroristic threat and four counts of criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm -- all felonies. He is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday. Court records did not list an attorney for Pelle.
Ryder said at the briefing Tuesday that the department takes threats to camps and schools seriously.
"Last year alone, there were 570 incidents here in Nassau County," he said, adding that 76 students were arrested.
The yeshiva's principal, Rabbi Tzvi Krigsman Menahel, told WABC he was "very thankful" for the police response.
"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," he told the station.
Officers responding to the incident on Monday found about 30 children with their parents at the camp, police said.
Confrontations over masks and social distancing have erupted during the coronavirus pandemic.
Following news of the arrest on Tuesday, neighbors defended Pelle as a decent man.
"He didn't mean it," one told WABC.
After posting bail, Pelle was taken from his home by ambulance, WABC reported. His condition was not known at the time.