2004_10_barveloce.jpg

Yesterday was the first day of the trial of Steven Johnson, who held patrons at Bar Veloce hostage, shooting at them and other people on Second Avenue, and attempted to set them on fire in the summer of 2002. The prosectors are arguing that Johnson was committing a hate crime, as he said "Get ready to pull your guns out on these crackers, son," in tape recorded before the incident (and found on his body when arrested), while Johnson's lawyer is arguing that the AIDS-stricken Johnson was plagued by "paranoid delusions." Further, the prosecutor said in his opening statement, "This is a case about hate and anger," while the defense attorney said, "Beyond the reality of a wine bar hostage situation, you will also see the reality of a very ill man's mind." The Post details Johnson's arsenal of weapons that he took to Bar Veloce: "[T]wo semi-automatic handguns, a two-shot Derringer, a samurai sword, dozens of plastic wristcuffs and a squirt bottle holding a quart of a flammable liquid."

Gothamist remembers this incident vividly, as we had almost stepped into Bar Veloce, the wine bar with great panini, early that June 16, 2002 evening, but decided to pass since it was so crowded. The next day, we heard about the incident: Johnson shot a man on the way to Bar Veloce; tied up Bar Veloce patrons and moved them into the kitchen, later throwing kerosene on them; shooting the Chef Iso, chef/owner of the late Iso, in the hand when Iso came to see what the hubbub was.

Photo of Bar Veloce from New York Magazine