The man accused of fatally stabbing a teenager who cut the line at a popular midtown gyro and chicken cart told the officer who arrested him that he was acting in self-defense. The violent incident took place one night around 4 a.m. in October 2006, after Ziad Tayeh, 26, accused two brothers, Shannon and Tyrone Gibbons, of cutting ahead of him in line. Shannon says, "We just ignored him," but after they drove off with their food, Tayeh allegedly chased them in his white Lexus SUV.

At a red light at 52nd Street, Tayeh jumped out of his SUV and allegedly plunged a blade into Tyrone Gibbons's chest. The 19-year-old college student died at the scene, and Tayeh drove off, only to be pulled over at East 26th Street. Officer Sean Ryan, who arrested Tayeh, testified yesterday that the suspect immediately insisted he was forced to fight. As soon as Ryan pulled him over, Tayeh volunteered, "It's about the fight in 52nd St.' He said it was self-defense."

Indeed, Tayeh's lawyer argues that he was assaulted first by Shannon Gibbons, and forced to defend himself. Whatever the truth is, the tragic incident's a sobering reminder of the dangers of arguing with strangers, as well as the perils of midtown at 4 a.m.