The 57-year-old Manhattan man arrested in the hammer attack on a New York City health department employee as she headed into a Queens subway station one night after work last week has a lengthy criminal record, including a jail escape attempt that left him with two broken ankles, law enforcement officials say.
William Blount's record includes kidnappings, robberies and drug crimes in New York City and South Carolina dating to the early 1980s.
He was sentenced to 20 years for kidnapping, 15 years for burglary and five years (to run concurrently) for committing a crime of violence with a firearm in a case in which he and his brother broke into a Bojangles in South Carolina in 2000 and kidnapped two employees, making one open the safe.
Blount tried to escape while serving that sentence, South Carolina police say. It happened during the murder of a guard by other inmates amid a larger escape plot on Sept. 17, 2000. Blount tried to join the jailbreak, jumping from the prison roof and breaking both his ankles in the process. He was caught, and got hit with a conspiracy to escape charge on top of the other crimes for which he was jailed.
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The 57-year-old's New York City crimes date back to about 1993 -- and the subway attack at Long Island City's Queens Plaza station last Thursday night marks the most recent allegation against him. Blount allegedly attacked 57-year-old Nina Rothschild, a researcher with the city's health department, blindsiding her from behind with multiple hammer blows to the head before kicking her down the stairs.
He stole her purse before fleeing the scene. Rothschild was hospitalized in critical condition with a skull fracture and brain bleeding. Her brother told News 4 late last week that she was doing better after emergency surgery to repair the fracture.
Blount is accused of attempted murder, robbery and assault in that case. Contact information for his legal representation was not immediately known.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, health commissioner for the city, called the attack "horrific" in a statement and said the agency's thoughts were with the woman and her family.
"Nina has worked tirelessly in service to her fellow New Yorkers and she is truly a public health hero," Chokshi said. "The Health Department and I will do everything we can to support her in her recovery—and we ask that all New Yorkers keep her and her family in their thoughts while respecting their privacy during this difficult time."
The horrifying attack came less than a week after Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul jointly announced a new subway safety initiative -- one designed to both mitigate recent spikes in violence in the transit system and intensify homeless outreach as the city looks to encourage a rebound of subway use post-COVID.
Officials shared more details on that plan early last week, saying it would target six priority lines to start -- the A, E, 1, 2/ 3 (described as a combination target), N, R and 7 -- and include additional police and social services worker deployment.
Thursday's attack marked one of nearly a dozen logged in transit since the announcement.