NEW YORK — An emotionally disturbed man wielding scissors stabbed or slashed five people today, including a father and his toddler, in a park along the Hudson River on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the police said.
A bystander wrestled a man to the ground as police officers rushed to the scene and placed the suspected assailant in custody, according to the authorities.
The suspect was identified as Julius Graham, 43. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Graham was carrying identification from Texas, but had been living in a homeless shelter in the Bronx as recently as a week ago.
According to a sequence of events given by Kelly, the seemingly random rampage started just before 8 a.m. and lasted less than 10 minutes, when Graham approached a 36-year-old woman jogging under some trees on a riverside path and stabbed her in the back.
A minute or two later, he attacked a 36-year-old man who was walking his dog. At first the man thought he had been punched in the gut, but then saw the blood and realized he had been stabbed.
Then Graham attacked a 32-year-old woman jogging farther south along the path, which winds its way through plantings, benches and public sculptures. She was stabbed in the neck.
At this point, Graham confronted a 35-year-old man as he was pushing his 2-year-old son in a stroller.
The father was stabbed in the chest as he tried to fend off the attacker.
“The man is attempting to protect his son, and his son is slashed in the arm,” Kelly told reporters after a Police Department event in the Bronx.
The stroller remained in the park surrounded by yellow police tape.
As the attacks played out one after the other, it quickly became clear that the normally peaceful park had been transformed into a scene of violence.
A bystander who saw the father being attacked confronted Graham, according to the police, and was able to wrestle him to the ground, keeping him subdued until the police arrived at 8:04 a.m.
“He did a good job,” Kelly said.
The bystander, who declined to give his name before being whisked away by police officers, told reporters that the real hero was the father.
The attacks occurred on a sunny autumn morning as the park was crowded with joggers, bikers, people heading to work or out for a stroll.
Shurita Fields, 51, who was at work at a Sanitation Department center beside the Hudson River, said several people came running out of the park, screaming that there was a madman stabbing people.
Fields ran toward the scene with her supervisor and saw a man in a gray sweatsuit lying facedown on the ground, another man keeping him pinned down.
As officers converged on the scene, one of the victims was trying to make sense of what had just happened.
“She was screaming,” Fields said of the victim, “and was holding a coat over her neck. She told me she was stabbed. She was hysterical, crying.”
Fields did her best to reassure her that everything was under control.
“I told her, ‘Listen, just calm down; someone’s coming to help you,’” she said.
The police declined to give the identities of the victims.
The father who was stabbed in the chest was transported to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan where he was in serious condition, according to Fire Department officials. The four other victims were transported to Roosevelt Hospital in Midtown, including the child. All were expected to survive, the authorities said.
Graham was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center for evaluation and remains in custody.
Riverside Park, which stretches four miles along the Hudson, remained shut down all morning as police officers canvassed the area for witnesses.
The police also cordoned off an area known as Riverside Park South.
Aerial footage from news helicopters showed police officers huddled around the abandoned stroller.
Kelly said that every year the police responded to some 90,000 calls regarding emotionally disturbed people.
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On Friday, in another seemingly random park assault, a mother fought off an attacker in Fort Tryon Park, which is also along the Hudson, several miles north of where the attacks today took place.
In that attack, in Washington Heights, a man approached the woman as she was pushing her 8-month-old baby in a stroller. The attacker had a broken bottle and grabbed the woman but she fought back and hit him several times with a bicycle air pump, the police said. The mother and her child escaped unharmed. There has been no arrest in the case.
Kelly said the police were investigating whether the cases were connected and reassured residents that attacks in city parks were rare.
“Parks are very, very safe,” he said. “We see something like this happen and it concerns everybody, we understand that. But the amount of incidents of crime in parks is minuscule.”