NEW YORK (AP) – A shirtless maniac armed with a fistful of long-handled kitchen knives savagely stabbed an elderly dog-walker and a restaurant worker Saturday during a random rampage that ended when an off-duty police officer shot the attacker from point-blank range.

The crazed assailant, who police identified as Lee Coleman, 38, of Rome, Ga., repeatedly stabbed 67-year-old Susan Baron as she walked her black Scottish terrier through the typically quiet East Side neighborhood, plunging the knives into her arms, face, neck and abdomen, said Deputy Police Chief Michael Collins.

Witnesses described the attacker as repeatedly raising his hands above his head as though swinging a club at the helpless victim, her dog tethered to her wrist by a leash.

“It was crazy,” said witness Isi Harrison, 23, who lives in the neighborhood. “I was right next to her. And then they shot the guy.”

Baron, a neighborhood resident, was in serious condition after surgery at Bellevue Hospital, authorities said. Restaurant employee Amansit Singh, 56, of Queens, was in critical condition at Bellevue, said hospital administrator Peter Schectman.

The bizarre episode left behind a trail of blood and stunned bystanders, including parishioners at an Armenian cathedral across Second Avenue. The elderly woman’s cane was lying in the intersection at East 35th Street, along with a pile of towels and rubber gloves abandoned by EMTs and local store owners who rushed to her aid.

The stabbing spree started around 10:35 a.m. after Coleman argued with someone inside a nearby Second Avenue store, police said. The man bolted and headed north, walking into a barbecue joint and demanding to use the bathroom, Collins said.

Before anyone could respond, Coleman was inside the kitchen grabbing at knives and slashing one worker, Collins said. The wounded employee staggered down Second Avenue with a gash to his face as the knife-wielding man approached a crowd outside the adjoining Gemini Diner.

Coleman, without a shirt and “acting like a maniac,” attacked the elderly woman for no apparent reason as bystanders and passing drivers gaped in horror, Collins said. Associated Press editor Patrick Rizzo, passing the scene in a taxi, said the attacker knocked the woman down with a running tackle.

“He swung a knife right into the back of her neck, not stabbing but chopping like a sword,” Rizzo said. Another witness said the man, his demeanor “intense,” never said a word before targeting the woman.

Inside the diner, off-duty transit police officer Gregory Chin saw the mayhem and came outside to confront the suspect. The six-year veteran identified himself, and fired a single shot when Coleman responded by rising up and waving the knives, Collins said.

Even with the gunshot wound to his torso, it took five police officers to subdue Coleman, witnesses said. Police recovered four knives from the scene, Collins said.

Coleman, hospitalized in stable condition Saturday night, faces charges of attempted murder, assault, and criminal weapons possession, police said. A telephone call to a number listed for him on Saturday night was busy.

Chin was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital for treatment of possible trauma, Collins said.

AP-ES-10-06-07 2246EDT


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