A madman with a meat cleaver, upset over his car getting booted, was shot by cops in Midtown on Thursday after he sliced an off-duty NYPD detective in the head during a chaotic confrontation.
The mayhem began less than a block from Penn Station during the height of rush hour after Akram Joudeh went into a blind rage when his illegally parked Nissan Sentra was slapped with a wheel lock, cops said.
It ended with Detective Brian O’Donnell recovering from a 6-inch gash that runs from his temple to his jaw and his attacker in critical condition.
Career criminal Joudeh, 32, was trying to remove the boot from the front tire of the white sedan, which was parked near 30th St. on Broadway when two cops approached him around 5 p.m.
Joudeh, who was likely living in the car, erupted in fury and pulled an 11-inch cleaver from his waistband. He began taunting the officers before running up Sixth Ave., knife in hand.
“He was running down the street, waving it,” said an MTA worker who requested anonymity. “The cops were chasing him.”
As panicked pedestrians jumped out of the knife-wielding crackpot’s way, O’Donnell, on his way to catch a train at Penn Station, joined the chase.
“He ran down the sidewalk past me,” said a stunned Richard Dewald, 56, a registered nurse. “I was standing next to where the cops were standing with their guns.”
A phalanx of officers, including the off-duty detective, finally surrounded Joudeh outside Jack’s 99 Cent Store on 32nd St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves.
“Drop it! Drop it!” the cops screamed repeatedly, according to witnesses. But he refused.
Cops used a stun gun on the enraged man, but it had no effect, said James O’Neill, who takes over as police commissioner this weekend.
O’Donnell, a 16-year NYPD veteran from Long Island, tried to bring the drama to a close as Joudeh leaped onto the front grille of a responding squad car.
“The detective ran from across the street and knocked him off the car and pushes him into the UPS truck,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism John Miller. “That’s when the suspect hits him in the face with the meat cleaver.”
And then the other cops opened fire, a witness said.
“They shot him up,” the witness said. “He was hit five or six times. He was laid up on the sidewalk. It looked like he was dead.”
The rush-hour sidewalks were choked with confused commuters and tourists who ducked behind parked cars and ran toward Sixth Ave. as the sound of the shots echoed off office buildings.
“There were a bunch of people running with cell phones,” Dewald said. “The block was very crowded with people getting off work.”
Others said the usual chaos of Midtown drowned out the pandemonium.
“Honestly we didn’t think anything of it at first,” said Christopher Okada, 36, president of Okada & Co. real estate. “Someone in the office was like ‘that was gunshots.’”
Cops fired 18 shots in total, O’Neill said.
“He had just attacked an off-duty officer who had a 6-inch gash on his face,” O’Neill said. “He had an 11-inch meat clever. They fired until the threat was stopped.”
A second officer was injured, suffering a graze to the back during the fracas, officials said.
Three cops and Joudeh were rushed to Bellevue Hospital for treatment.
The off-duty detective was “in good spirits,” according to O’Neill.
“I’m all right. I may have a little scar, but I should be all right,” the 43-year-old hero cop told NYPD brass according to a source.
A neighbor who answered the phone at O’Donnell’s Northport, L.I., home called him a “very heroic father and police officer.”
Lisa Smith, who lives on the same suburban block as O’Donnell, said his wife is a schoolteacher and the couple has three boys.
“He’s a great guy,” Smith said. “He’s real salt of the earth. He helps anybody in the neighborhood.”
Joudeh was in critical condition and undergoing surgery, officials said.
The drifter, who lived for a while with his uncle in Queens, has a lengthy criminal history that includes larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, criminal mischief and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Joudeh was arrested for weapons possession in Brooklyn in July after cops found a pair of knives in his car.
He had been parked outside of a synagogue and was pacing back and forth. The charges were later dropped.
“I always knew there was something wrong with him,” said Joudeh’s former neighbor J.J. Williams, 19. “He didn’t like police.”
The incident was eerily similar to an attack two years ago that left a rookie cop fighting for his life after a hatchet-wielding man ambushed a group of NYPD officers in Jamaica, Queens.
Zale Thompson slammed the 18-inch ax blade into the cop. Two other officers shot and killed Thompson, who was later described as a self-radicalized lone wolf.
“There doesn’t appear to be a terrorist link. He’s an (emotionally disturbed person) who lives in his car,” a police source said of Thursday's rampage.
“We had a character running down the street, waving a meat cleaver,” outgoing Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said as he joined O’Neill for a news conference. “Despite that, the officers approached the suspect and tried to take him into custody.
“I commend them for their bravery and their performance of duty,” he added.