35 years ago on July 7th, 1986
A man with a sword attacks Staten Island ferry passengers, killing two and injuring nine
Juan Gonzalez, a 43-year-old homeless man who had been living in a men's shelter in Washington Heights since June 19th, had been released from psychiatric observation just two days earlier and boarded the ferry with a two-foot-long sword concealed in newspapers.
Around 8:30am, as the ferry passed the Statue of Liberty headed toward Staten Island, Gonzalez began yelling in Spanish and attacking people on the ship.
Edward del Pino, a security guard and former police officer who was licensed to carry a gun, fired a shot and held the man at gunpoint until the ship reached shore. At the time, the ships did not carry security guards and police only patrolled the ferry terminals. The ship's crew radioed that an attack was taking place and they continued toward Staten Island, meeting police and medical personnel at 8:55am.
Once Gonzalez was taken into custody, he claimed that God had told him to carry out the attack. His previous behavior at the homeless shelter and claims that Jesus told him to kill led to his hospitalization at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center prior to the attack, but he was released after promising to seek psychiatric help at Harlem Hospital.
He was charged with two counts of second-degree murder, 12 counts of first-degree assault, and one count of criminal possession of a weapon, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to a mental hospital. He was released 14 years after the attack in March 2000 under the orders that he remain on medicine to control his schizophrenia and he was prohibited from visiting Staten Island or riding the ferry.
Rose Cammarota of Manhattan and Jordan Walker of Staten Island were killed in the attack that was the first incident of violence aboard the ferries in 25 years.
Two survivors of the attack, Richard and Connie Nichols of McPherson, Kansas, presented Edward del Pino with a gift of $1,000 in gratitude for his actions that day.