The man who was fatally shot by police after allegedly opening fire inside a Queens bar on Wednesday night was a former marine with a history of "psychiatric issues."
Jonathan Efraim, 30, had previously been arrested at least fourteen times, the NYTimes reports, mostly in Staten Island and New Jersey. The Times added that Efraim attempted suicide in 2003 by drinking bleach. Most recently, he worked as a dispatcher for a tow truck company.
The police investigation is ongoing, but NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told reporters that the officers who shot Efraim appear to have been justifiably provoked. “We have him on video twice with a gun in his hand,” Boyce told WCBS 880. “He fires a total of three rounds—one in the bar and two at our officers responding. So initially right now, as this investigation is still going, at this point it appears to be justified.”
More details have also surfaced about what took place inside the Hillside Inn. According to the Times:
He [Efraim] had been drinking at the bar for about an hour and was having a conversation with a 72-year-old patron, officials said, when the bartender, noticing some tension, told the older man that a cab had arrived to pick him up.
At that, Mr. Efraim yelled, “No one’s going anywhere,” pulled out a Glock 9 millimeter handgun and fired once into the ceiling, said Stephen Davis, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.
The News added that Efraim lived three blocks away from the bar with his girlfriend. A witness who was at the bar during the shooting told the tabloid, "The guy just snapped. Everything changed in a split second. Everything was good. Everybody was having a good time, and it all changed in a split second."
A witness who works in the deli across from Hillside Inn told 1010 Wins that a woman ran into the deli and asked to use a phone to call 911. “We all ran out of the store, and we saw the people pointing for the cops that he ran up the street, and that’s when we heard the gunshots," he said.
Past charges against Efraim included reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, and resulted in brief jail stints in 2011 and 2012, the Times reports. Efraim's most recent arrest was in Staten Island in 2012, and involved menacing a police officer. The Staten Island Advance reported on the incident that May: "A Pleasant Plains man went on a joy ride inside a tow truck belonging to his former employer early Saturday morning, smashing up several vehicles and a crane, police allege."
Efraim served in the Marines from March 2004 to 2007, although he never served overseas. A Marine Corps spokesperson tells the Times he was discharged for bad conduct for an "unauthorized absence," and charged a $2,800 fine and 120 days in confinement.
Last summer, Mayor de Blasio appointed a task force to investigate the NYPD and Department of Correction's handling of mentally ill individuals. "For far too long, our city’s jails have acted as de facto mental health facilities," de Blasio said in a statement announcing the task force last June. "Everyone deserves access to quality medical and mental health care—and addressing these needs within the criminal justice system will improve public safety for all New Yorkers."