In the hours that police lost track of stabbing spree suspect Maksim Gelman, he crossed paths with a New Yorker whose quick thinking likely led to the accused killer's dramatic capture in Times Square.
Security guard Kennie Morel talked to Gelman for about 30 minutes last Saturday morning before the Army Reservist could discreetly exit the train to make the 911 call that would lead to the accused killer’s arrest.
Morel, whose story emerged only Wednesday, told NBC New York that he boarded the train at 207th street, wearing his military uniform. Near 168th Street, the accused killer approached him and asked him about his military service.
After a few minutes of talking, Morel said Gelman pointed to a woman sitting on the subway reading the the New York Daily News.
“The guy goes up to the woman and points to the front cover and says the picture is him,” Morel said. “He put the mug shot side-by-side with his face and says ‘I’m a fly dude’ and ‘can you believe what they’re writing about me?'”
Gelman, who is accused of killing four people and wounding four others, then pointed to a photo of one victim, Yelena Bulchenko, and said, “That’s my girlfriend.”
At 125th Street, where the train is above ground, Morel tried to pull out his phone to call police, but noticed Gelman watching him. Gelman asked him what he was doing and where he was from in New York. After a few minutes of silence, Gelman continued to stand next to Morel.
“He seemed calm, but he did look kind of crazy. I knew this guy killed three people, I tried to keep calm so he wouldn’t act up,” said Morel. “I feared for my life, and the lady’s life, and the other passengers on the train.”
Morel finally got the opportunity to leave the train at 96th Street. He called police and described Gelman, including where he was on the train.
“I never thought about not calling the cops, even though I feared for my life,” Morel said. “The truth is that I want to become a cop. I looked at it as an opportunity to do what I want to do. I’m trying to get my certificate at the police academy.”
Morel grew up in upstate New York before living for a few years in the Dominican Republic. He now attends classes at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in addition to working as a security guard.