On the morning of February 12, 2011, Joe Lozito boarded northbound train No. 3 at New York’s Penn Station. Lozito takes the first seat, located directly behind the train operator’s booth. Several minutes later, two transit officers – Terrance Howell and Tamara Taylor – entered into the operator’s cab alongside the engineer.
Lozito, still recovering from the stab wounds sustained during the altercation at a local hospital, was stunned to hear the media’s account of the events that unfolded on the morning of February 11, 2011. Not only was Officer Howell claiming to have tackled and disarmed the suspect himself, but he was also alleging that he did not stand by and watch as Gelman attacked Lozito through the comfort of the operator’s booth window.
In addition to Lozito’s claim that officers refused to intervene during the attack, he also alleged that he was left to sit on the train as he bled profusely from his injuries. Had it not been for another passenger’s attempts to administer first aid to Lozito and yelling for the engineer to get the train moving immediately, Lozito believes he would have died that day.
Later that week, Lozito was told he would have to provide his testimony to the grand jury. Following him on the stand would be Officer Howell.
Lozito gave his testimony and then stuck around to hear what Howell’s version of the events would be. Howell admitted that he had witnessed the attack through the window of the operator’s booth door. He was preparing to intervene but, fearing that Gelman had a gun, he decided to hide instead. Livid with Officer Howell’s refusal to protect a citizen during a knife attack, Lozito decided to take the matter before a judge.
In the lawsuit Lorzito filed against the city, he claims that it was the officer’s duty to have recognized Gelman, due to the city-wide manhunt that was already underway, and that the officer should have reacted more quickly once the attack began. The suit remained pending for over a year, but ultimately a judge decided to have the case thrown out.
The judge ruled that it was not the police department’s duty to provide any protection for Lorzito or any other passenger on the train that day. The city’s defense lawyer, David Santoro, says that decision was made because there is well-established law removing liability from police to protect citizens.
Lorzito feels that the judge’s decision was in error. In an interview with The New York Post Lorzito says, “If the cop is on the train, and I get robbed by a stranger, of course, the cop can’t be clairvoyant, but when they’re looking for Maksim Gelman, and Maksim Gelman bangs on the door and says, ‘Let me in, I’m a cop’ and all you say is: ‘No, you’re not?’ ”
Gelman was later sentenced to 200 consecutive years for the four people murdered during his 28-hour stabbing spree. Officer Terrance Howell never received any disciplinary action against him for his failure to act upon the subway attack against Lorzito. As for Lorzito, although his case may have been thrown out of court, he still wants his story to be heard. Lorzito wants the public to know that the common assumption that it is law enforcement’s duty to protect citizens from harm is completely false.