NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Five people, including a 2-year-old boy, were rushed to the hospital after a man went on a nine-minute rampage with scissors on the Upper West Side, police said.
The incident happened shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday on a bike path along the Hudson River near West 59th Street, in Riverside Park South.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Julius Graham, a 43-year-old homeless man who appeared to be emotionally disturbed, was taken into custody after the stabbing incident. He was caught by two good Samaritans who witnessed the stabbing spree – one on a bicycle, the other walking two dogs, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported.
Riverside Park South became a scene of horror after Graham used a half pair of scissors to carry out an attack that spanned several blocks, Kelly said.
The suspect attacked the victims one by one.
Police said Jessica Lipps, 32, was attacked. James Fayette, 34, was slashed, and his 2-year-old son also had his left arm slashed. Lipps and the little boy were treated and released; Fayette remains hospitalized in stable condition, according to the hospital.
Ben Loehnen, 35, was stabbed in the abdomen, and Deanna Koestel, 36, was stabbed in the back while jogging. Both of them have been listed in critical condition and Koestel has undergone surgery for her injuries.
CBS 2 was both at the scene and outside a hospital emergency room to get pictures of the victims.
The man walking the dogs, Thomas Ciriacks, held the suspect down when he saw a woman being attacked.
Ciriacks, 49, told CBS 2’s Slattery about the horrifying experience that he helped quell. He said he witnessed the suspect attacking a woman.
“He made a slashing motion across her throat — I still didn’t see a weapon; didn’t see anything like that, but it was apparent that it was serious,” he said.
Ciriacks says he ran to pass off the dogs’ leashes to someone else. Then, he and the biker distracted the man.
“He was lurching, like very zombie-esque, you know? Something wasn’t right about him. His eyes were clearly crazy,” Ciriacks said. “He let go of the woman, she ran, and he started coming towards for me.”
He said at that point, his dogs got frantic and the man moved away. But it wasn’t over – the suspect then attacked victim Fayette and his 2-year-old son.
“I heard the screaming from behind me, which was the man with the child,” Ciracks said. “We pulled him the guy off of the man with the child.”
Ciriacks said he then held the man down to prevent further attacks.
“I stood on his arms, on his head a little bit, and kicked the scissors,” he said. “It was half of a scissors. That was the first time I saw the weapon.”
Meanwhile, sanitation workers from a nearby transfer station rushed to the scene to aid the victims.
“I saw her with a shirt in the front of her neck, and I just was trying to calm her,” said sanitation worker Shurita Fields, who stayed with one of the victims until help arrived. “So I did the best I could to keep her relaxed, and we just kept trying to tell her that the ambulance was coming.”
It was a time when those who were near pitched in to comfort those brutally injured.
“Myself and the other civilians — we did the best we could to help her,” Fields said. “I saw them apprehend the suspect and knew she was in good hands.”
Ciriacks said he was not a hero. Rather, victim Fayette deserves the title, he said.
“The man with the kid is the hero. He, of his own volition, came to the aid of this jogger with me and my dogs. That guy is the hero, and he paid for it. That guy’s is the hero, and he paid for it. He’s the hero.”
Ciriacks said while he held the agitated suspect down, he said to him, “Don’t move, or I’ll use the other half of the scissors on you.” At that point, the suspect immediately relaxed, Ciriacks said.
Graham, who carried a Texas driver’s license, had last resided at an East Harlem homeless shelter, CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported. Another resident of the shelter said Graham was a loner.
“A quiet person – he’d just be sticking by himself; staying by himself,” the man said.
Upon his arrest, he was promptly moved from the police station house to Bellevue Hospital.
“I’m very surprised that something like this could happen,” said Cory Tahlon, a jogger who frequents the area. “Either other people would attack the attacker, but there’s also lots of construction projects going on here — so many people around.”
Geoffrey Croft, spokesman for New York City Park Advocates, called the incident Tuesday another incident representative of a troubling spate of attacks in city parks.
“Under the Bloomberg administration, and the former Parks Commissioner (Adrian) Benepe, they allowed the park enforcement ranks to go down to 80 officers citywide, which is – they used to have 450 officers, so that’s completely unacceptable,” Croft told 1010 WINS.
Croft claimed the city is dropping the ball in ensuring the parks are safe.
“You can’t have public parks – you can’t invite the public in – and not provide a level of safety and security,” Croft said. “That’s irresponsible and negligent.”
The biking and jogging paths was closed for most of the morning as a result of the investigation, WCBS 880′s Sean Adams reported.
On Tuesday evening, parkgoers were still being turned away as the investigation continued. Many were stunned, and concerned about their own safety.
“There’s a lot of people here, usually, biking, but still, you know, if somebody just jumps in front of me, I don’t know what I would do,” said Asha Ingram of the West Village.
Loehnen and Koestel remained in critical condition Tuesday night, police said.
Meanwhile, the Fayettes’ nannies said the family was grateful everyone survived, and the youngest victim made a quick recovery, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“He’s up playing eating and watching TV with us, so I think he’s doing great,” said nanny Christa Whitlow.
“They’re very thankful. They have thankful hearts,” said nanny Conly Basham. “They’re just now looking to rest and recoup.”
Police said they recovered scissors at the scene of the attacks.
The NYPD said Tuesday that it does not keep statistics on crimes committed by emotionally disturbed people.
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