Yesterday, the story was that a transit worker had been stabbed by four muggers, only to amazingly fight back and stab two of them. One died, one was wounded, another was apprehended, and a fourth was on the loose. But then, as more information was released, it seems that the man who died was not in the group of muggers but a bystander, perhaps even a Good Samaritan trying to help, who was caught in the middle.
Today, the story is still unclear. What is known is that Maurice Parks, a conductor for the 5 train, had been walking home when he was attacked at West 139th and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem. He was hit on the head, beaten and then stabbed in the stomach, in an attempt to take his backpack. Parks, a black belt in jujitsu, took out a knife he kept to protect himself (per the NY Times, "In New York, it is legal for someone to carry a knife as long as it is not among those types defined by state law as illegal, like a switchblade.") and police believe he stabbed at who he thought were his attackers, who included mugger Hector Cruz, 21, and bystander Flonarza Byas, 28. Byas died an hour after the Thursday night attack.
There are few hypotheses about Byas' presence. One is that he just wandered into the fight. Another is that he might have thought that Parks was attacking the muggers and was trying to help the group, while another was that he might have joined in the mugging. Or he could have been trying to help Parks, which is what Byas' family believes.
His brother told the Daily News was not homeless as initially reported and was probably coming home from his second job: "More than likely, he just walked out of nowhere, and saw something going on, and moved in to help. That's his nature." And a police official told the Times, “He probably stepped in to help, but it might have been difficult to tell who was the aggressor and who was the victim. He could have been stabbed by both of them, for all we know.”
Fifteen-year-old Leandro Ventura was apprehended when he was trying to flee with Cruz. He was charged as an adult, and apparently he and Cruz are accusing each other of stabbing Parks. His family says that Ventura was coming home from the park and was only trying to help the stabbed men, but he has a number of arrests since February.
Parks, the father of three, was visited at Harlem Hospital by his family, fellow transit workers, and the head of the Transit Workers Union Roger Touissant. When he was mugged in 1994, Parks stabbed his attackers and was initially charged with attempted murder, but the charges were dropped. Parks' mother said, "I'm glad he did what he did, otherwise he'd be dead. It's sad that it happened. I'm glad my son is in a physically fit condition and that he knew how to defend himself."