The family of a Jewish teenager killed in a shooting on the Brooklyn Bridge said his killer should face the death penalty for terrorism.
Amid heavy police security, thousands gathered Sunday outside the Brooklyn headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitcher Hasidic sect for a funeral that mixed Old World tradition with modern media savvy.
Gov. Mario Cuomo, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and numerous other politicians turned out for the funeral of 16-year-old Aaron Halberstam. He died Saturday night, four days after being shot in the head while riding in a van with 14 other young rabbinical students.
Lebanese-born taxi driver Rashad Baz, 28, was charged in the shooting that wounded three others as well. Hlal Mohammad, 32, and Bassam Reyati, 27, both Jordanians living in the borough of Brooklyn, were charged with hindering prosecution and weapons possession by helping Baz dispose of the guns and the car.
Police said Baz would probably be charged with murder.
The attack came four days after a Jewish settler from Brooklyn massacred at least 30 Muslims at a mosque on the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Even though authorities say they've found no link to terrorism, Halberstam's parents urged the U.S. Justice Department to charge Baz with terrorism under a federal law that calls for the death penalty. New York has no death penalty.
"There must be consequences for this untimely and brutal murder so that a clear message is sent _ that wanton violence and anarchy will not be tolerated on American soil," Chesed and Devora Halberstam said in a statement.
Police said Baz told them he was provoked by the Jews in the van into firing at them, but investigators have offered no explanation for precisely what angered Baz.
Doctors had declared Halberstam clinically brain-dead a day after the shooting, but he remained on life support, as required by Jewish law as long as his heart was beating.
Another student, 19-year-old Nochum Sasonkin, remained in critical condition Sunday with a severe head wound.
The funeral mood was somber, but with hints of militancy. Several signs appeared in the crowd, including one that read, "Jewish Blood is Not Cheap."
"He was a humble and unassuming boy who excelled in everything from athletics to his rabbinical studies," said Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht in Halberstam's eulogy.
"Ari was a martyr who died because he was a Jew. The hatred which caused the cold-blooded murder of this tender young man can not be condoned by society and must be purged," said Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, secretary to Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the 91-year-old grand rebbe of the Lubavitcher sect.