ASTORIA – The 55-year-old owner of an Astoria liquor store was the latest victim or a series of slashing and stabbing attacks in the streets and subways of New York City. George Patouhas was stabbed to death by a suspect in the afternoon of March 6 when he tried to defend a homeless man who was attacked first.
Police were already scrambling to locate the suspect, 23 year-old James Dillon, after an earlier incident when a 39-year-old woman was slashed in the face and neck.
Assistant Police Chief Diana Pizzuti, in remarks to the press at the 114th Precinct, read out this statement: “This afternoon at approximately 3:09 PM, the department received a 911 call about an argument that had broken out at 38-18 Astoria Boulevard at a liquor store. The suspect, later determined to be James Dillon, stabbed the owner of the liquor store. The 55-year-old owner, George Patouhas, was removed to Mt. Sinai Hospital where he later died. A second, 61 year old male victim, was sprayed with an accelerant by the suspect and lit on fire. The victim was removed to Cornell-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and is currently listed in stable condition.”
“My thoughts are with the brave officers who were injured in this disturbing incident and I extend my hopes for their speedy recovery as well as my sympathies to the victim’s family,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who added, “Thankfully, the perpetrator was apprehended and will face justice for his awful crimes.”
Patouhas “was known for his friendly greetings and his lenient payment plans. Despite his easy manner, he was often harassed by an aggressive group of men, including Dillon, some customers said,” the New York Times reported, which added “The police said Mr. Dillon had been treated for psychological problems in the past, and his family reported he had not been taking his medication recently.”
After Patouhas was killed, “The Department began an extensive search of the area for the suspect we believed to be James Dillon with negative results…This evening at approximately 5:11 p.m. the department received a 911 call of a burglary in progress at 30-65 42nd Street here in Astoria. The complainant called 911; telling dispatchers that a white male attempted to break into her apartment and was fleeing on the fire escape. At approximately 5:40 p.m. two officers from the Critical Response Command were canvassing on foot and searching for the suspect at 25-38 36th Street when they encountered James Dillon,” Pizzuti said.
“The officers demanded the suspect drop a knife and bottle of accelerant he was carrying. He refused. The suspect then sprayed the two officers in the face with the liquid, burning their hands. The officer then discharged their weapons, shooting the suspect. Both the Inspector and Lieutenant from the Critical Respond Command were transported to Cornell Presbyterian Hospital in stable condition. The suspect was transported to Elmhurst General in critical condition,” Pizzuti said.