N.Y. man wielding power saws slices at commuter

Newsday (New York)
Copyright 2006 Newsday, Inc.

A postal worker catching the subway to work in Manhattan early yesterday was suddenly and savagely attacked by an emotionally disturbed ex-convict who grabbed two idle power saws on the platform and sliced open his chest, officials and the victim said.

Three hours after Michael Steinberg, 64, was attacked at the 110th Street 1/9 subway station, police arrested Tareyton Williams, 33, of the Bronx and charged him with attempted murder and robbery, police said.

Just two weeks ago, a Boston man was charged with injuring four people during a 13-hour stabbing spree in the subways and the Theater District in Manhattan.

Yesterday's attack occurred just after 3 a.m. on the Upper West Side moments after Steinberg swiped his MetroCard on his way to his decades-long job at an East Village post office.

Before he crossed through the turnstile, Steinberg said he saw a man wielding two buzzing Sawzall power saws - used to tear through wood and concrete - and several workers running scared on the platform.

One police source described Williams' swinging motions as "shadow boxing," and said he was possibly holding a stuffed teddy bear. Before he struck Steinberg, Williams also swung the improvised weapons at an unidentified man who escaped injury, police said.

"The guy came outside, where I was standing. He looked at me, and before I knew it, he was attacking me," Steinberg said in a telephone interview from his hospital bed at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he was in critical but stable condition with a punctured lung and a possible broken rib.

Steinberg said that no one around him - including several privately employed electricians who ran away from the attacker - bothered to help.

"I begged for someone to call an ambulance and to get this guy off of me," he said.

Officials said Williams grabbed the battery-powered saws from a table on the platform set up by a subcontractor working at the station.

Before fleeing with the saws, Williams allegedly robbed Steinberg of $200 in cash and credit cards, police said. He dumped the saws in an above-ground trash can, disappearing a block east on Broadway.

Within two hours, Williams struck again, police said, punching a 29-year-old man who was walking his dog at West 86th Street and West End Avenue, police said. That victim called police, who drove around the neighborhood with him until Williams was spotted 10 minutes later, with blood on his white T-shirt, at East 93rd Street and Broadway, police said.

He was arrested and taken to the Columbus Circle transit police station. There, several witnesses from the subway attack were able to identify him, said police, who added that Williams had about $100 of the stolen money on him.

Later in the day, Williams was taken to a prison ward at Bellevue Hospital Center for psychiatric evaluation, police said.

State prison records show that Williams served six years for attempted drug sale convictions.While Steinberg said none of the workers in the station came to his aid, Paul Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, said the station agent who was in the token booth alerted officials through an emergency warning system.

The contractors in the station were employed by Five Star Electric Corp. of Ozone Park, Fleuranges said. An employee of that firm who answered the phone declined to comment.

Jennifer Peltz and staff writer Herbert Lowe contributed to this story.

Saws were subway workers' tools

The saws used in the attack on a subway commuter belong to contractors installing the much-anticipated system that will let straphangers monitor the location of trains.

The Public Address Customer Information System, or PACIS, will consist of platform displays that show the locations of all trains on the line, as well as the next one's estimated time of arrival. It could banish familiar quandaries such as whether to hop on the local train or wait for the express.

The MTA doesn't expect the first 15 stations to come online until late next year, a spokeswoman said.

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