Authorities have arrested the man suspected of fatally stabbing a security guard at an upstate New York rehabilitation center where he'd been sent to recover from drug and alcohol addiction before his sentencing on a felony theft charge.
Ulster County authorities launched a barrage of gas cannisters shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday and ended a tense stand-off with 24-year-old Richard Giga of New City, who had been barricaded in a house near Ellenville for more than an hour.
County Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum said Richard Giga, 24, killed 60-year-old Leland Wood at the Renaissance Project inpatient center in Ellenville after getting into an altercation with him around 3:30 a.m.
Giga forced a female worker to drive him away from the scene, then repeatedly stabbed her while she was driving, VanBlarcum said. The sheriff said the car flipped over less than a mile from the center, injuring the woman. He said she underwent surgery at a Poughkeepsie hospital and is expected to recover. Her name hasn't been released.
VanBlarcum said Giga ran from the car into a wooded area near the crash scene. Police are searching the area just outside Ellenville, a Catskills village about 75 miles north of New York City.
According to the Renaissance website, the Westchester County-based organization has a 100-bed facility in Ellenville and nine outpatient facilities in other locations. A woman who answered the phone at the company's office in Elmsford said she had no information and couldn't comment on the slaying. She refused to give her name.
VanBlarcum said Giga is from New City, in Rockland County, and had been a patient at the rehab center for the last six months. The sheriff said Giga was considered armed and dangerous.
A prosecutor said Giga was sent to the facility to recover from drug and alcohol addiction before being sentenced on a felony theft charge.
Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said Giga was charged with stealing a cell phone and making racial remarks during an altercation with three Hispanic teens in 2008.
Investigators determined he was highly intoxicated at the time. He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree grand larceny and was sent for treatment at the Renaissance Project inpatient center in January 2009.
Sheriff's deputies, state troopers, Ellenville police and state environmental conservation officers joined Wednesday's search along a road southeast of the rehab center. Police were going house to house to search the few homes in the area, officials said. The Ellenville Central School District closed for the day because of the search.
Police don't know yet what led Giga to attack Wood, VanBlarcum said.
"We haven't been able to interview the woman, so we don't know what led to the altercation," he said.