Wanted Fake NYC Firefighter Captured

Wanted Fake NYC Firefighter Captured
Peter Braunstein
New York Police Department/AP

updated 12/19/2005 at 08:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/2005 08:00AM

A man who had eluded New York police for seven weeks after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman while posing as a firefighter on Halloween was finally captured and charged with kidnapping, sexual abuse and other offenses, authorities said Sunday.

Peter Braunstein, 42, also is charged with burglary and robbery in the attack, said Manhattan District Attorney spokeswoman Barbara Thompson. He also faces a charge of assaulting a police officer in Tennessee, where he was finally apprehended on Friday afternoon, the Associated Press reports.

Braunstein, a former writer for Women's Wear Daily, was arrested at the University of Memphis after a campus police officer confronted him. Authorities said he stabbed himself several times in the neck and spent two days in a Memphis hospital. Police officer Jay Johnson said on Monday's Today show that Braunstein had fainted immediately after identifying himself to police, whom he initially tried to escape.

Braunstein is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Memphis, then face extradition to New York, Thompson said.

In a crime that captivated New York City, where wanted posters went up all over town, a man believed to be Braunstein bought a firefighter outfit on eBay, started a small blaze on Oct. 31 and barged into a woman's apartment, knocking her out with a chemical-soaked rag and molesting her over several hours. He then disappeared, though supposed sightings were reported in outer boroughs as his father and half-brother denounced him in local papers – and pleaded for him to turn himself in.

Braunstein responded with a letter to his father, published in the New York Post, stating that he couldn't wait to urinate on the older man's grave.

Ultimately, it was a University of Memphis student – Annette Brown – who recognized Braunstein from TV's America's Most Wanted and tipped off police so Braunstein could be captured. On Today, Brown said that Braunstein just didn't look like another student.

"It was the scariest moment of my life," she said. "I looked him dead in the eyes, and just started a shiver ... I was so afraid."

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