Hero teacher honored after intervening in subway knife attack in Manhattan

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
Hero teacher honored after intervening in subway attack
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29-year-old Scarsdale art teacher John Catania was honored by NYC Mayor Eric Adams after intervening in a subway attack at Union Square last month. Sonia Rincon has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A good Samaritan was honored Tuesday night after he was slashed while trying to stop a subway knife attack in Manhattan last month.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams presented a proclamation recognizing heroism to 29-year-old Scarsdale art teacher John Catania.

Adams said Catania exhibited compassion and the very best of what the city has to offer.

The frightening incident occurred around 10:30 p.m. on November 22, on a southbound L train near Union Square.

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Police said the suspect, 28-year-old Albert Cowan, who is homeless, was hovering over 28-year-old Diamond Phillips on the subway train, attempting to make eye contact, but she ignored him.

The victim eventually got up and walked away from him, towards the exit. The suspect then followed her to the subway door and slashed her on the forehead and hand.

That's when Catania intervened and attempted to stop the suspect. Catania was slashed on the top of his head and in the back.

Both Catania and the 28-year-old woman were taken to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition.

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Police say the suspect may have made an anti-Muslim statement to the woman before the attack.

On Tuesday, the high school art teacher talked about the attack.

"I mean everyone else kind of jumped away. What else do you do?" Catania said. "That situation is just a moral thing. It had to happen in front of me. There was no real thought about it. It was just, I had to help."

Phillips said she is grateful that Catania stepped in.

"The situation definitely would have escalated and been worse," she said. "I just hate that he too was injured in the process of trying to come to my aid. Someone who didn't know me."

Catania and Phillips have both recovered from their injuries.

The attacker ran off after the incident that day, but police arrested a suspect in a burglary three days later and linked him to the slashings.

He's now charged with attempted murder as a hate crime among other counts.

Phillips says while she's relieved, he was apprehended, she knows he's not well and could use another form of help.

"So I hope that, beyond justice for whatever happened to us, I hope that he gets the help that he needs," she said.

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