Man Charged in Subway Stabbing Claims Self Defense

Source says prosecutors found no evidence the other two men committed a crime

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Check out raw video of the man accused of stabbing two to death in a Manhattan subway. (Published Friday, Apr 2, 2010)

    A 19-year-old man has been charged with murder  in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men on a Manhattan subway over the weekend, but similar charges against two of his friends have been dropped, law-enforcement sources said Friday.

    Brenddy Garcia, who cops say implicated himself in the crimes, was arraigned Friday afternoon -- and sobbed uncontrollably as his lawyer claimed self defense in the slay.

    Garcia says that he was hit with a bottle, put in a headlock and pummeled to the floor.

    "One of them took a beer bottle and smashed it over my client's head," said Garcia's attorney Pam Roth. "My client was not the instigator, he was not the perpetrator and he also was not the one who came on the train looking for trouble."

    Despite that allegation, Garcia was charged with two counts of  murder and one of criminal possession of a weapon.

    Prosecutor John Veiga said Garcia "reacted to a perceived act of disrespect in a grossly inappropriate manner."

    "He taunted his victims, as the two men bled to death," said Veiga.

    Garcia is being held without bail and at the request of his attorney, placed him in protective custody

    Authorities initially also charged Franklin Varella, of New York City, and Diogenes Hernandez, of Queens, both 21, in connection with the deadly attacks, but sources tell NBC New York prosecutors reviewed the police case and found no evidence that they committed a crime.

    If evidence emerges at a later time, the two will be charged, law-enforcement sources say, but they are not accused at this point. Both Varella and Hernandez left the stationhouse Friday.

    Police had been formulating a profile of the suspect since Sunday's stabbing, which started as an altercation on the subway between a group of friends headed home from a night of clubbing and another subway rider.

    The two deceased victims, identified as Ricardo Williams, 24, and Darnell Morrell, also 24, were headed south on the No. 2 train, which they boarded at the 42nd St. station, police said. A third man was wounded and treated at the hospital.

    A witness told reporters the men meant to toss the trash out an open train door but instead hit a man standing near the door, and the man flew into a rage and pulled a knife from his jacket. Investigators now believe the two groups had been provoking each other, which started the fight.

    "He ... went right for a knife in his jacket," Bryan Woods, a friend of the victims, told the Daily News. "We said, 'You're going home.  We're going home. This doesn't have to get so serious.' "

    That is when the knife-wielding killer allegedly stabbed Williams and Morrell multiple times in the torso. The third man, Mark Joseph, was cut in the back of the neck and arm.

    The group of friends managed to push the armed man onto the platform at W. 14th St., keeping him off until the train pulled out of the station.

    "When we left, he stood banging on the glass with a knife in his hand," Woods told the News. He and his friends fled the train at Christopher Street.

    Williams, Morrell and Joseph were later found laying in pools of blood on the subway floor at the Houston Street station.

    No image was captured of the knife-wielding man because no security cameras are at the Greenwich Village station. But even if there had been a camera, it might not have been working, as about half the 4,313 security cameras installed along New York City's subways are inoperable.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it is working to make all the cameras operable. Nine hundred additional cameras will be working by June, the agency said.