Astoria residents tried to come to grips Monday with the violent spree that terrorized the family-friendly neighborhood just one day before.
Two Critical Response Command officers were injured and a suspect was shot after the suspect, 23-year-old James Patrick Dillon, apparently went on a spree in Astoria on Sunday, slashing a woman, killing one man inside a liquor store, and injuring another, police said.
“I’m shocked that it went as far as it did,” said Chris Cavaliere, 61, who lives down the block from the Dillon family. “And I’m sad about it, very sad.
“James was always very nice to me, always very polite, always said ‘hello,'” she added. “I saw him at 6’o clock in the morning, I was walking my dogs. He said hello to me. Everything was fine, and then five-and-a-half hours later…”
The spree started at about 11:30 a.m. when Dillon allegedly attacked 39-year-old Berta Carpio as she was walking to church. Standing on 36th Street, where he and Carpio both live, he slashed her in the neck and face, police said. She has been treated and released from the hospital.
Just after 3 p.m., Dillon allegedly struck again, fatally stabbing George Patouhas, the 55-year-old owner of an Astoria Boulevard liquor store. Patouhas had intervened after Dillon started an argument with a man sitting in a chair, Deputy Chief John Essig said.
Dillon then stepped out of the store and allegedly threw accelerant back inside, lighting a 61-year-old homeless man on fire. He was taken to New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell and is now in stable condition.
At about 5:10 p.m., Dillon broke into an apartment on 42nd Street, near Newtown Road, but fled, police said.
And about 30 minutes later, the two CRC officers spotted Dillon. He had a knife, police said, and a bottle of accelerant. Standing in the backyard of the home Dillon shares with his parents, police said they fired a total of seven shots, hitting Dillon several times.
During the exchange, the two officers, a lieutenant and inspector, were burned from a chemical accelerant contained in a Corona bottle, which was thrown in their faces, burning their hands, police said.
“This has been a very unusual day here in Astoria,” Assistant Chief Diana Pizzuti, commanding officer of the patrol borough of Queens North, said during a news conference on Sunday night outside the 114th Precinct. “There was quite the manhunt to find the suspect.”
Investigators tested the substance Sunday, but were not immediately able to determine what it was, said Essig.
A green knife was recovered from the scene, police said. The officers were taken to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and have since been released. The suspect was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center in critical condition.
His family indicated that Dillon had not been taking his medicine lately, Essig said.
By Monday afternoon, there was still a heavy police presence at the home where Dillon lived and the liquor store he attacked.
Several people stopped by the liquor store to place flowers in front of the business as investigators walked in and out. Gus Toufos, 71, and Patouhas would have coffee every weekday morning at Burger King, and last saw each other Friday.
“He’s a beautiful man, a family man,” he said. “I feel so bad.”
He said Patouhas would often let homeless people hang out in the liquor store and do some work.
Andrew King, 47, lives a few blocks from the crime scene and said on Sunday he knew both Dillon and Patouhas for several years.
“Everyone is shocked at what went on here, we don’t believe this,” said King, who works as a mover. “I’m very depressed from this.”
Jonathon Martinez, 28, said he often sees Dillon walking around the neighborhood.
“He’s usually over here in the morning. He says ‘hello’ to people walking by,” Martinez said. “It just shows you: one day you could be fine and the next day you lose it.”
Investigators continued to go in and out of the suspect’s home on Monday as the block remained cordoned off.