Pinoy community in the spotlight after arrest of suspected jihadist

By Alex P. Vidal

“Don’t carry a gun. It’s nice to have them close by, but don’t carry them. You might get arrested.”— John Gotti

RESIDENTS living in neighborhoods with large Filipino population in Queens, New York City have noticed unusual presence of (New York Police Department (NYPD) cars in the streets since the arrest of a 29-year-old suspected Pinoy jihadist in a traffic stop near the La Guardia International Airport last week.

NYPD cars would be spotted moving slowly every now and then as if going the arounds in the neighborhood day and night, observed Resty, a freight delivery attendant who resides in the Woodside area, a residential and commercial neighborhood in Queens borough’s western portion.

“Para bang may hinahanap sila (It seems they were looking for someone),” remarked Resty, a habitue of Elmhurst’s Moore Homestead Playground.

The communities bordering on the south by Maspeth, on the north by Astoria, on the west by Sunnyside, and on the east by Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and East Elmhurst, are largely dominated by mixed Filipino, Middle Eastern, Latino, and Chinese residents.

“Little Manila” is located in the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and 70th Street.

Created in 2021, the area has long been known as “Little Manila” for its many Filipino restaurants and stores such as Kabayan, Renee’s Kitchen, Phil Am Foodmart, Ihawan, a branch of the Philippine National Bank and many more.


“Police (patrol) cars usually don’t use sirens if there are no emergencies or activities related to crimes or police operations, but we have seen many of them passing by and sometimes parking nearby incognito,” observed Balsy, a cashier in a Woodside restaurant who lives in the 69th Street.

“Since the news (of the suspected jihadist’s arrest) broke out, sometimes NYPD cops entered the Filipino restaurants, but they didn’t buy anything. Maybe, they’re just observing,” Myrna, a caregiver who lives near the 61st Woodside Station, said.

It was the first time that a member of the Filipino community was implicated in extremism related to terrorism.

Possessing an arsenal of weapons in his black Ford Explorer near LaGuardia International Airport, NYPD busted Judd Sanson, the Filipino suspect considered as a “quiet kid” who often spoke about staying positive—until something “snapped in his head,” according to a friend quoted by New York newspapers.

The court sent Sanson to Rikers Island, where he was reportedly being held without bail.


Sporting a long hair, Sanson was pulled over by cops near LaGuardia at about 1:30 a.m. June 12. He “nervously reached under the driver’s seat as the officers approached,” according to prosecutors as reported in New York newspapers.

The New York Post, which first reported the story on June 16, quoted Sanson as telling the cops, “Sorry, there is a lot of drunk people nowadays.”

The cops, who stopped the Filipino driver for having obscured license plates on the vehicle, found a loaded Glock under the seat. He nervously blurted, “I live in Jamaica. I was visiting my uncle.”

Authorities also found a knife strapped to his leg, along with an MTA reflective vest and “a makeshift axe hanging from the ceiling” and a “makeshift sword” inside the vehicle, Queens Assistant District Attorney Dylan Nesturrick said last week in Queens Criminal Court, as reported by New York Post.


Sanson has addresses in Tennessee and Maryland, but lives with his dad in the Hollis section of Queens. Prior to his arrest, he had  reportedly posted a “disturbing photo” on his Facebook page.

“This car stop averted what could have been a disaster for the citizens of Queens, New York City and potentially even the country,” Nesturrick said.

Cops may have suspected Sanson’s other friends with valuable information about the suspect and his activities, could be staying in the neighborhood where he lives. The NYPD did not announce they were looking for more suspected jihadists with Filipino features.

The majority or 54 percent of some 73,000 Filipino New Yorkers live in Queens. The remainder live mostly in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Sixty percent of New York State’s Filipino residents live in New York City

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)