BY Kerry Burke and John Lauinger
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Friday, December 25th 2009, 1:33 AM
Several thugs tried to drag a woman off a Queens subway train Thursday night, but she fought back and fatally stabbed one of her tormenters before fleeing on another train, police said.
The large group of men - perhaps as many as eight - surrounded the woman outside a chicken restaurant above the 21st St.-Queensbridge station about 9 p.m., police and a witness said.
The harassment, which may have included unwanted sexual advances toward the woman and grabbing, continued as she entered the subway station.
The woman broke free from the men and frantically ran down to the platform and hopped on an F train, with the thugs right behind.
"They tried to physically drag her off the train, but she fights back," one cop said.
The struggle continued as the group pulled her off the train and dragged her up the stairs to the mezzanine level.
At one point, the woman stabbed one of her attackers - identified by family as Thomas Winston, 29 -- multiple times in the chest.
The woman then sprinted back down to the platform - with the thugs in hot pursuit, said witness Ricardo Josephs, 41.
"Seven or eight of them were chasing the woman," said Josephs, an MTA employee.
"They all jumped over the turnstiles after her," he continued. "She got on the Queens [-bound F] train. They tried to grab her; they tried to hold the train - but she got away."
Winston, who lives in a nearby shelter and has a 10-month-old daughter, was pronounced dead at a Manhattan hospital.
The woman was still in the wind Thursday night, police said. One police source said investigators suspect the woman was acting in self-defense.
Winston has numerous prior arrests, including several raps for sale of narcotics, most recently in September.
You have to love the way the police source said that investigators only suspect the woman was acting in self-defense.
If this woman were to come forward, it's hard to believe that any jury would convict her. But right now she is probably less worried about a jury than she is about Winston's friends and relatives.
You may remember Bernhard Goetz from twenty years ago. He was a mild-mannered white man who lived in Greenwich Village with his pet chinchilla who was accosted by four black men brandishing screwdrivers on a subway car. He shot them and disappeared. The press then dubbed him the subway vigilante. Nine days later he surrendered to police and was charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, and possession of an illegal firearm. A Manhattan jury acquitted him of all charges except the gun charge, for which he served eight months in jail. Goetz became a symbol of sorts for people who were fed up with New York street crime in the 1980's.
This woman, based on this report, makes an even more sympathetic figure. First, she is a woman, and therefore perceived as more vulnerable. Second, she was surrounded by eight men, not four. Third, she tried to escape twice but they kept chasing her and even tried to drag her off the subway. And fourth, she didn't use a gun, only a knife. I have no idea what the woman's race was, though I'd be willing to make a guess as to the ethnicity of the men.
My guess is she will eventually be identified -- after all, there are at least seven living witnesses who saw her up close, and undoubtedly more who saw her from a short distance.
When she is identified, she can expect to become a mini-celebrity of sorts, one who is particularly celebrated by women. Her aura may be dimmed, however, if it turns out that she has an extensive criminal history of her own, which, given her proficiency with a knife, she may well have.
In the meantime, I wish her a Merry Christmas.
Addendum, next day: the woman turns out to be Cyan Brown, 16 years of age. Her mother claims that she was acting in self-defense. The dead man's cousin claims that Brown has a history of stabbing people she gets into arguments with. The police are "trying" to contact Brown to question her about the killing, which says to me that they think it was self-defense (otherwise they would just arrest her). This says to me that the story is as initially presented, though there is now a small element of doubt about it.