Bradford Burner didn't stop to think when he heard a blood-curdling scream and saw a man race through the Westin Hotel and into the streets of the Magnificent Mile still crowded from the Festival of Lights. He gave chase.
"The way the person screamed, 'Stop that person!' — it was bone-chilling," said Burner, 35, who was bartending Saturday night at the Westin's Grill on the Alley restaurant. "I just reacted."
Speaking out Tuesday for the first time, Burner said the man displayed a knife as he closed in on him near some shops at the Hancock building.
"Someone yelled something. The gentleman turned around (and) saw me coming toward him," Burner told Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass on WLS-AM 890. "The next thing I know, he was lunging at me with a sharp object."
Burner was cut on the left side of his chest and fell to the sidewalk.
"I was like, 'What the hell just happened?'" Burner told the Tribune after his radio interview.
Police and prosecutors said Jimmy Harris had tried to rob an Oak Brook doctor, Mir Jafar Shah, in the restaurant bathroom and stabbed and struck him during a scuffle before fleeing. Harris, 56, a parolee with 60 arrests who had just been freed from prison eight days earlier, is being held without bond on charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery and unlawful restraint.
In the radio interview, Burner said that after he had been cut on the chest, the assailant ran across the street before slowing down, trying to blend in among the families strolling along North Michigan Avenue.
"I looked right over at him. He paused for two seconds and looked directly back at me, and then he proceeded down the steps," Burner said. "His demeanor was that of a person trying to get away ... sacrifice everything to get away from the situation."
Burner recalled that parents and their small children stared down at him as he lay bleeding. He decided not to wait for an ambulance and hailed a cab. He hopped in and asked the driver, "What was the fastest he could get me to Northwestern (Memorial) Hospital?"
"The taxi driver was freaked out," Burner said. "He was like, 'Are you crazy?' I said, I'm really serious about this,'" said Burner, showing the cabbie his bloodied shirt and vest.
Burner said he tipped the driver — how much, he can't remember — before going inside to be stitched up for the deep wound.
Burner bristled at being called a hero.
"My heart goes out to (Shah) and their whole family that they had to go through this tragedy," Burner said. "I was just trying to stop an individual that was doing something wrong."
Tribune reporter Jason Meisner contributed.
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