NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A suspect has been arrested and charged in the random slashing attack of a 71-year-old woman on board a SoHo subway train earlier this week.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, police say Damon Knowles, 21, was the one caught on camera jumping over a turnstile and falling after the random attack Monday morning.
The attack happened on a D train as it was pulling into the Broadway-Lafayette station around 7 a.m. Monday.
The victim, Carmen Rivera, was heading to work when a man sitting across from her stood up and suddenly attacked, police said.
“He just pretended that he fell, and he fell on top of me, and that’s when he slashed my face,” said Rivera, who suffered a 4-inch gash on her left cheek. “I didn’t even know ’cause I didn’t feel no pain.”
Rivera, 71, did not want to show her slashed face that required 20 to 30 stitches.
Witnesses tried to chase the suspect, but couldn’t keep up.
“He flew, so they couldn’t get him,” Rivera said.
Knowles, of Brooklyn, was taken into custody Tuesday after a relative of his girlfriend recognized him from the surveillance video and called police, authorities told CBS2.
Police said Tuesday night that Knowles got into a fight with his girlfriend at her apartment on Howard Avenue in Brownsville, 1010 WINS’ John Montone reported. He allegedly tried to barge into the apartment.
That was when the girlfriend’s grandmother realized Knowles looked similar to the images police released of the slashing suspect, Montone reported.
Police told CBS2 that Knowles was wearing the same clothes the suspect was seen wearing in surveillance video related to the attack. A witness also identified Knowles in a lineup, police said.
“I hope God forgives him, and he should repent because he’s destroying his life,” Rivera said.
Knowles’ girlfriend’s grandfather, Fred Peterson, said such violence was out of character for the suspect.
“He’s quiet; never been in no trouble,” Peterson said.
Peterson said his granddaughter was distraught by her boyfriend’s arrest.
“She’s kind of freaked out about it because she didn’t think — that was the furthest thing from her mind — him doing something like that,” Peterson said.
The motive for the attack remains unclear.
Knowles is facing two counts of assault. Police said he also faces charges of stalking and harassment for showing up at his girlfriend’s house. He’s also accused of assaulting a fellow prisoner while in a jail cell.
He is expected in court Wednesday. Police say Knowles has no prior arrests.
Commuters on Wednesday morning were relieved to hear about the arrest.
“I left two minutes before the guy came and slashed the lady in the face,” Vanessa Torres, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “There’s a lot of crazy people over here. They need to have more police in this area. There’s a lot of crazy stuff I see every single day.”
“Of course we’re all glad that he’s caught,” said Suzanna Zweighaf, of Forest Hills, Queens. “I mean, there’s always people doing crazy things, and it seems lately there’s more and more. But more police presence would be good.”
But police on Wednesday were also searching for yet another random subway slasher who used a cloth-covered machete to slice a 29-year-old woman’s hand on the No. 3 train at the Eastern Parkway station in Brooklyn Tuesday night.
Police released images of the man, who allegedly told the victim after bumping into her: “I’ll chop you right on this (expletive) train. The police aren’t here right now.”
“As they were getting off the train, he then assaulted one on her hand, requiring no stitches,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyle.
Subway stabbings and slashings are up 14.86 percent for the month of January, according to police. There have been 286 attacks so far compared to 249 in January 2015.
Those statistics have straphangers concerned.
“It kind of makes me scared and self-conscious about my surroundings and stuff,” one straphanger said.
“It’s unsettling, but as many people as they’re on the subway at any given time, a lot of things can happen,” another said.
But they were relieved that at least one slashing suspect was off the streets Wednesday night.