ELMONT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A panhandling homeless man was behind bars Monday afternoon, in what the Long Island community of Elmont called an outrageous crime.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, James Howley, 46, allegedly stabbed a man in a dispute over a donation of one dollar.
Just after 3 a.m. Sunday, police said Howley approached the man on Meacham Avenue near Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont and asked for money. The man handed over one dollar, police said.
But police said Howley saw that the man had more money in his wallet and demanded he be given more. When the man refused, police said Howley pulled out a knife and repeatedly stabbed and slashed him across the face, neck, chest and hands.
As detectives described it, the panhandler “went berserk.”
The man was able to grab a pipe that was lying on the ground and hit Howley with it, police said. The victim was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries.
Along the main drag in Elmont, not far from Belmont Park and the local library, British tourists witnessed the crime scene’s aftermath.
“Awful,” said witness Bella Oden. “I would never expect a Good Samaritan to be attacked for the amount of money offered.”
Police said after the stabbing, Howley threw a brick through a glass window at the Smart Star Gas Station on Hempstead Turnpike. Gas station operator Neil Dong said he could have been killed.
Dong said he happens to be a former neighbor of Howley’s.
“He lived down the block a couple of years ago,” Dong said. “I know him. He was a nice guy. But I think he lost his job and became homeless,” and just snapped.
Many local residents were shocked by the incidents.
Xavier Rodriguez is an Elmont educator and president of the Elmont Civic Association.
“Elmont is a family-oriented community,” he said. “Hopefully, this is an isolated incident that does not reflect on our suburban life style.”
Rodriguez said the case is getting national attention.
“It was shocking to hear that someone would attack someone over a dollar,” Rodriguez told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “Someone was trying to be a good citizen, trying to help somebody in need.”
Others said they depend on the kindness of strangers.
“There are times when I need a dollar, and I ask people and they are kind enough to give me five — more than what I asked for – so he makes it bad for people like me,” said panhandler Diana Dixon.
Howley was arrested after showing up at the same hospital where the victim went for treatment, police said.
Doctors said the man he allegedly stabbed is expected to recover, but remained in serious condition Monday afternoon.
Howley pleaded not guilty and was being held on $300,000 bond or $150,000 cash, Rivera reported.
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