Man Wielding Sword Kills Two on Staten Island Ferry

Associated Press

A man with a sword attacked a crowd of people on a Staten Island ferry Monday, killing two and wounding nine others before a retired police officer subdued him, officials said.

Police quoted the man as saying: “God told me to do it.”

Among the wounded were tourists in the city for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty. The attack began just after the ferry, the Samuel I. Newhouse, had gone past the statue shortly after leaving Manhattan.

First Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Condon identified the suspect as Juan Gonzalez, 43, who told police he had bought the weapon, a 24-inch, curved, thin blade with a two-inch fake pearl handle, at a shop in Times Square. He took it aboard the ferry concealed in newspaper.

“He said God told him to do it,” Condon said.

Shelter for Homeless

The suspect had been hospitalized Thursday at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center after acting strangely at a shelter for the homeless, saying that “Jesus told him to kill,” but he was released two days later, Mayor Edward I. Koch said.

The attacker was subdued by a retired police officer, Edward del Pino, who was going home from a night security job, Condon said.


“It was bedlam,” said Del Pino, 55. “Everyone was running past me incoherently screaming.”

He said he pushed past the panicked people to where the man stood over a woman and “to my horror, I see him going up and down, lunging down repeatedly with the sword.”

“I yelled, ‘Drop it!’ ” Del Pino said, and fired a shot to get the man to drop the weapon.

Del Pino said he then ordered the man to sprawl across a seat and warned him: “If you move, you’re dead.”

Gonzalez was charged with two counts of second-degree murder, 12 counts of first-degree assault and one count of criminal possession of a weapon, police Sgt. John Venetucci said.

Sent to Hospital

At arraignment in Staten Island Criminal Court, Gonzalez was ordered held without bail and sent to Kings County Hospital for 30 days for evaluation, Venetucci said.

Gonzalez, who was wearing a yellow sweat shirt with the city’s skyline and the words “New York” on it, said he came by boat from Cuba in 1977, Condon said.

Koch told reporters at City Hall that he had ordered the city’s mental health commissioner to look into the procedures followed in Gonzalez’s recent hospitalization and release.

Among the wounded were a prominent Kansas banker and his professor wife, and a visitor from Austria. Four of the injured were hospitalized, none in serious condition, officials said. The other five were treated and released.

About 400 to 500 people were aboard the vessel, which runs between the boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island.

The dead were identified as Jordan Walker, 61, and Rose Cammarota, 65, both of New York City. Both died of stab wounds, officials said.