Suspect in New York MoMA stabbing is arrested in Philadelphia

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Suspect in New York MoMA stabbing is arrested in Philadelphia
Police officers on the scene of a double stabbing at the Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan on Saturday, March 12, 2022. A suspect in the stabbing of two employees at the museum was arrested early Tuesday, March 15, 2022, in Philadelphia, the New York Police Department said. C.S. Muncy/The New York Times.

Mike Ives, Troy Closson and Ashley Wong

NEW YORK, NY.- A suspect in the stabbing of two employees at the Museum of Modern Art in New York over the weekend was arrested early Tuesday in Philadelphia, the New York Police Department said.

The man, Gary Cabana, 60, was identified by the department as the suspect who jumped over a reception desk at the building and stabbed two workers Saturday afternoon. Cabana had been denied entry to the museum after his membership was revoked days earlier.

When he was not allowed inside over the weekend, police said, he became “upset” and attacked the two employees — a 24-year-old woman stabbed in the back and neck and a 24-year-old man stabbed in the left collarbone — who were both expected to survive the attack.

Cabana was taken into custody after he was found sleeping on a park bench at a Greyhound bus terminal in the city’s downtown area shortly after 1:30 a.m., the Philadelphia Police Department said.

Several hours earlier, emergency responders received a report that a fire had broken out in a hotel room a few blocks away, police said. No injuries were reported, but police said fire officials quickly deemed the blaze to be arson and that investigators reviewed surveillance cameras and records for whoever checked into the room.

That person matched the description of Cabana, who was found shortly afterward. It remained unclear how or why he traveled to Philadelphia. The arrest was reported earlier by Steve Keeley, a journalist with a Fox News affiliate in Philadelphia.

Cabana is expected to face assault charges for the stabbing after an extradition hearing and his return to New York, police said. It was unclear Tuesday afternoon if he had retained a lawyer.

In the days after the museum stabbing, friends of Cabana and residents of the Manhattan building where he was living described him as a longtime cinephile, an amateur reviewer of films and a reclusive neighbor who often kept to himself. But in recent years, some said, he had appeared to be navigating mental health problems.

Those issues seemed to be exacerbated by the widespread isolation that the pandemic brought on and the abrupt halt it caused to the rhythm of the city’s vibrant theater and arts scenes, some friends said. He worked as an usher for the Nederlander Organization, which operates several Broadway theaters, until November.

It was unclear what prompted his departure, though it appeared he left on tense terms. Cabana will also be charged with aggravated harassment for sending threatening emails to an official at a union that represents ushers, police said, and with assault for punching an employee at a Broadway theater in January.

As police searched for Cabana in the days after the attack, officials said the Secret Service was also notified that he had made threats against former President Donald Trump.

A user writing as Cabana on social media accounts also fired off several new posts, discussing his mental health and saying he had bipolar disorder.

“Bipolar is a tough road to hoe,” the person wrote. “Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.”

He also accused the museum of “a frame job” and said he had never caused earlier disruptions at the building or been escorted off the premises by security. “Someday when all the lies are corrected by the Evil media, the Truth will out and I will be EXONERATED,” read one new comment on Instagram, posted under an old post that displayed a program for a play about six wrongfully convicted people.

A woman who said she attended college at Missouri State University with Cabana and remained friends with him said his behavior seemed to be reflective of deeper recent challenges and that he was not the “monster” some may believe.

The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she wanted to preserve her privacy, recalled visiting New York about six years ago and spending the afternoon at a film institute and in Times Square with Cabana. She said his compassion, kind spirit and unique sense of humor stood out from their interactions.

She said that she believed the case was illustrative of broader problems in how mental health problems were handled by society, calling Cabana one of the many people who slip through the cracks of the systems in place.

Cabana was arrested just over two days after surveillance video at the museum in midtown Manhattan showed a man rush through a revolving door around 4 p.m. Saturday and mount a wooden counter carrying a knife. Three people were cornered behind the desk as other visitors in the building began to flee outside.

After a video shows the man stumble into a wall, he jabs and swings the knife as the employees attempt to cower underneath the desk. At one point, the man grabs one worker who tries to run past him and strikes them in their torso before releasing them.

For about 30 seconds, the man remains behind the desk and continues to swing the weapon until a second worker manages to bolt past him, and he chases after the employee.

On Tuesday morning, the museum opened to the public for the first time since the stabbing, and a press representative said staff members were “relieved and grateful that our colleagues are recovering and the attacker was arrested.”

Residents at Cabana’s building recalled only minor details about his life, describing him as a relatively quiet individual who at times spent hours in a computer lab in the building’s basement.

The building he lived in was an affordable housing residence in midtown that offers support services to tenants and is operated by a housing nonprofit, Breaking Ground. The building was once a mix of actors, low-income and working-class New Yorkers, formerly homeless individuals and people living with HIV/AIDS, two residents said. In recent years, they said, it has primarily served those dealing with homelessness.

One third-floor resident, Daniel Hicks, 67, said that feelings of separation could take hold among some tenants at times. “People can be very isolated,” said Hicks, who has lived in the building for about two decades.

Others in the building shared mixed reactions to the news of the museum stabbing.

Michael Oliver, an 18-year resident of the building who lives on the seventh floor, said before Cabana’s arrest that he had often encountered him in the hallways and was surprised by the attack. He said he would not have thought Cabana would have become violent unless provoked.

“They had to push him for him to do that,” Oliver said. “I know that.”

But Brad Boonshaft, 70, who has lived on the 10th floor for five years, said residents he had spoken with were less surprised. He said other tenants had told him that Cabana had been struggling with his mental health in the days before the attack.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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