When Jill Gordon took her 10-year-old daughter to the doctor in Teaneck on Sept. 12 for a stomach problem, she never expected for them to end up cowering in the bathroom to protect themselves from an antisemitic attacker.
The pair were already in the bathroom at Riverside Pediatrics in Teaneck when the Demarest resident told The Jewish Link she heard, “smashing, banging and glass shattering” and someone screaming to “call 911.”
Gordon opened the door to find out what was going on only to be confronted by a man holding a hammer with blood dripping down his arm from being cut by glass from the door he had just shattered. He asked, “Are you Jewish?”
“I slammed the door shut,” she said. “It was all women and children and I heard him go around asking everyone, ‘Are you Jewish?’”
Safely locked in the bathroom, Gordon called 911 and grabbed the only weapon available—a spray can of bleach while her terrified daughter hid behind a garbage can.
Her daughter began to cry and said, “Maybe we should tell him we’re Jewish,” as people continued to scream outside.
The attacker had fled by the time police arrived to find patients and medical staff barricaded in the doctor’s office. A receptionist received facial lacerations from flying glass.
In a press release, Teaneck Police Chief Glenn M. O’Reilly said at 12:03 p.m. police responded to multiple 911 calls. Shortly afterward, another 911 call was received that a hammer-wielding man was smashing the window at nearby Parisian Cleaners on Cedar Lane.
Police were able to follow a trail of blood and with the assistance of Bogota and Leonia police arrested Camwren T. Cole, 23, of Teaneck. He was taken to the nearby Holy Name Medical Center to receive treatment from his injuries before being turned over to the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department. O’Reilly said during the investigation Cole showed signs of mental illness and is being psychologically evaluated.
Cole has been charged with aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief, all third degree crimes; and harassment, a disorderly person’s offense. Gordon said “the ordeal seemed like hours although it was only minutes.” The trail of blood she saw along the hallway as everyone was herded safely into the back by police indicated to her he had been going room to room looking specifically for Jews.
While she found Teaneck police and detectives to be “amazing,” especially to her daughter, and is relieved that with the exception of the minor injury to the receptionist no one was hurt, the outcome could have been deadly had the alleged assailant had a gun. She is upset that Cole has not been charged with a hate crime or a bias incident.
“Just because no one got seriously hurt doesn’t mean he did not have intent,” said Gordon. “I know they are looking into whether he is mentally ill, but who does something like this who isn’t mentally ill? It doesn’t make it less of a hate crime. He was going person to person asking if they were Jewish. We were targeted for being a minority.”
In a statement emailed to The Jewish Link, Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth R. Rebein said, “We are not able to comment on investigations, including whether or not certain allegations are being investigated.”
Gordon said she believed Cole knew there would be many Jewish patients at that site because it was open on Sundays, unlike most medical offices, to accommodate Teaneck’s large Orthodox community.
Not to charge him with a bias or hate crime “doesn’t make sense,” she said, adding one of the reasons she is speaking out and posted about her ordeal on social media is to create awareness of rising antisemitism.
“What is the goal of having bias or hate crimes [laws] if this doesn’t qualify?” asked Gordon. “We need to know what’s going on in the community and to just ignore this is irresponsible.”
Congressman Josh Gottheimer was scheduled to make a statement to The Jewish Link about the incident after press time.