Back in February 2011, a 24-year-old Brooklyn man went on a 28-hour stabbing rampage across Brooklyn and Manhattan, killing four people and injuring four others. An unremorseful Maksim Gelman later admitted to the deaths and was sentenced to 200 years-to-life in prison. His last victim, straphanger Joseph Lozito, later sued the police for not doing more to prevent the madman's actions and not coming to his aid in a timely fashion. And now, city lawyers are arguing that the NYPD had no "special duty" to protect him during the attack, despite the fact that cops were on the train at the time and may have been too scared to engage with Gelman.
Lozito was taking the subway from Penn Station to West 66th Street to go to his job at the Alice Tully Hall box office when he was confronted by Gelman on February 12, 2011. Lozito said that Gelman was wildly pounding on the motorman's door, pretending to be a cop, when he turned to him and said, "You are going to die." Gelman lunged at the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Lozito with a knife, stabbing him multiple times in the head. But Lozito was able to use some MMA moves to pin him to the ground. Afterwards, officer Terrance Howell tapped him on the shoulder and said he could get up: “By the time he got there, the dirty work was already done,” Lozito said.
It later turned out that Howell and fellow officer Tamara Taylor, who were part of the manhunt looking for Gelman, had locked themselves in the front room with the conductor because they thought Gelman had a gun. Lozito told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "When the news was brought to my attention that police had an opportunity to intervene and maybe prevent the whole incident, and it was explained to me they chose to stay in the motorman's compartment instead of coming out, I was very upset."
Lozito sued for negligence, but city lawyers say his demand for unspecified money damages should be tossed because the police had no “special duty” to protect him or any individual on the train that day—there's a long-standing legal precedent requiring cops to put the public safety of all ahead of any one individual’s rights. According to the official NYPD account and Howell’s affidavit, Howell was the one who tackled and subdued Gelman.
Suffice to say, Lozito thinks it's bullshit: “If the cop is on the train, and I get robbed by a stranger, of course, the cop can’t be clairvoyant,” Lozito told The Post. “But when they’re looking for Maksim Gelman, and Maksim Gelman bangs on the door and says, ‘Let me in, I’m a cop’ and all you say is: ‘No, you’re not?’ ”