Police, MTA Timelines Differ in Accused Stabber's Subway Capture

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The MTA and New York Police Department have differing accounts of how they coordinated efforts to capture accused stabber Maksim Gelman on a subway train earlier this month.

Police accuse Gelman of going on a killing spree that left four dead and four wounded over the span of 28 hours, beginning in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and ending when a transit cop subdued him on an uptown No. 3 train in Midtown Manhattan.

Police said they received a 911 call at 8:38 a.m. that Gelman was on board a downtown No. 1 train and then immediately notified the MTA.

But a spokesman for the authority said they were first informed that Gelman was on the train at 8:42 a.m. — four minutes later — when a straphanger told an agent at the 96th Street station. The MTA said its records show police first contacted them at 8:44 a.m.

Police gave the following account of what happened when Gelman was in the transit system:

On February 12, around 8:30 a.m., Maksim Gelman swatted a newspaper from a woman's hand on a downtown No. 1 train in Manhattan. She and another woman exited At 96th Street. Gelman stayed on the train.

One of those women called 911 at 8:38 a.m., police said. That's when cops decided to set a trap for Gelman at 34th Street.

"Police were in direct contact with one another and transit personnel at the 34th Street platform and in the train immediately," spokesman Paul Browne told WNYC. "There was no delay. Our cops talked to each other by radio and to transit personnel on the platform and in the train face to face."

The MTA has a different account of the events.

The MTA learned of Gelman's presence on the train from "a customer who spotted Gelman and reported it to a station agent at 8:42," authority spokesman Charles Seaton said. That's four minutes after police say they contacted the MTA.

At 8:43 a.m., according to the MTA, the transit authority notified police and other station agents. The MTA had by then figured out the last train to leave 96th Street was at 50th Street.

At 8:44 a.m., the transit authority said police first contacted them with a request to hold the No. 1 train at 34th Street with the doors closed. When the train pulled into the 34th Street station and stopped, the doors stayed closed. But Gelman managed to elude police. Transit officers who boarded the No. 1 train learned from passengers that a man, whom police later said was Gelman, had escaped by getting out between cars.

Police said Gelman crossed to the uptown side and started walking north through a tunnel. The MTA said a conductor on a No. 2 train spotted Gelman on the tracks and radioed the Rail Command Center, which ordered an approaching uptown No. 3 train to slow to two miles an hour.

Police said Gelman climbed onto a catwalk in the tunnel and, from there, got onto a No. 3 train between cars — either while the train passed slowly or after it has stopped.

At 9:01 a.m., Transit cut third-rail power to all four lines in the area so cops could walk on the tracks looking for Gelman.

At 9:06 a.m., passengers on the No. 3 train told the conductor that a man had boarded between cars. Police said in the next seven minutes Gelman approached passenger Joseph Lozito in the first car, told him he was going to die and stabbed him in the head and neck.

Gelman then banged on the motorman's door, according to police. A pair of transit officers burst out. One of them knocked Gelman down, separated him from his bloody knife and, with the help of riders, subdued him.

Lozito, 40, survived the attack with serious injuries.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder said communication between the MTA and police while Gelman was loose in the subway went well.  

"From everything I understand, the communication worked exactly the way it was supposed to work," Walder said. "Transit takes the lead from the NYC Police Department in every one of these situations. I think it was handled exactly the way the police had asked for it to be handled, and I'm very happy that the person was apprehended."

Gelman was arraigned Wednesday on 13 counts of murder, attempted murder, robbery and assault. He did not enter a plea at arraignment and is now being held in Elmhurst Hospital.


Correction: The original version of this article reported Maksim Gelman was arrested on February 13. This is incorrect. He was arrested on February 12. WNYC regrets the error.


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Comments [5]

joe from Harlem

Good catch, judy! That error is of the magnitude of the timeline errors WNYC is asserting happened. That is, mostly trivial.

Given the prominence WNYC has given this story would it now be okay for another news outlet to jump on them for messing up the timeline? No, because while the error is unfortunate it clearly is just sloppy fact-checking and does not affect the substance of the story.

WNYC has been playing up this story as if it has great significance. What makes the story weird is that Mr. O'Grady does not provide any evidence or background information to show that there was a problem. Gelman was caught soon after being spotted in the subway. Is WNYC asserting that Gelman should have been arrested even sooner?

Feb. 25 2011 04:07 PM
judy rothenberg from brooklyn

no one seems to be listening here. In a story finding fault with inaccuracies Jim O'Grady misstates the date as Feb 13, Sunday. I heard this twice, thursday evening and friday morning.
No one at wnyc bothered to correct this obvious error. what else reported on this station is inaccurate?

Feb. 25 2011 01:03 PM
h l from n y

so if this is another case of NYPD not doing their job as the previous commenter michael, points out, then 1. why isn't wnyc including the previous reports? 2. why isn't wnyc reporting the relevance of these details on the timing of events as joe points out. Why is wnyc, PUBLIC radio, failing the public, once again?

Feb. 25 2011 10:49 AM

Of course they are harping on the story with an angle: Earlier reports told that Lotizo subdued Gelman, not the cops. That early report described how passengers used cell phones to alert NYPD who boarded the No 3 train. Soon after that Gelman pounded on the door of the conductor's booth and two police officers who were locked insideof it told him to go away. He then turned and targeted Lotizo.

The delicate question is why were cops who were deployed to search through that train locked safely inside a tiny booth? Why did they not emerge when Gelman first banged on their door? All early reports described how Lotizo subdued his attacker; it was not a matter of Gelman giving up the attack and suddenly approaching the conductor's booth. It was after that when the cops rushed out of the booth. There have always been troubling anecdotal reports of the police avoiding situations after receiving reports, especially on the subway. This case cries out for a closer look.

Feb. 25 2011 08:58 AM
Joe from Harlem

I've heard this story broadcast at least four times since last night and it is on top of WNYC's website, yet it seems like such a minor story. Is there an issue it is trying to address? It just sounds like Gelman's whereabouts were reported separately to 911 and the MTA. The 911 operator recorded the time according to what they saw on their computer screen and the MTA ticket agent probably looked at their watch, which was almost certainly not synchronized with the 911 computers, to record the time. Or maybe the ticket agent took the information, contacted 911 and then wrote down the time.

The point is the differences in the timelines appear to be utterly trivial. This report doesn't say why those differences are important or why anyone should care.

Feb. 25 2011 08:06 AM

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