NEW YORK — Police are searching for the suspect behind a stabbing on the subway late Wednesday night.
It happened around 11 p.m. on a northbound 2 train on the Upper West Side.
Sammi Tovar and his girlfriend were heading home to the Bronx after a night out.
“He sucker-punched me right away,” Tovar told CBS2’s Alecia Reid.
Tovar says before the subway doors closed at 42nd Street, the suspect walked in and made a beeline towards his girlfriend.
“Approached her aggressively and was violating her space,” he said.
The 26-year-old says the moment he tried getting between the two, he was punched in the face, and it didn’t stop there.
“He took out a cloth that was wrapping something and he was like showing it to everyone and he was like unraveling it, and it was a large kitchen knife,” Tovar said.
The knife nicked his finger and hit a blood vessel in his left leg. That’s when his girlfriend stepped in with pepper spray.
“She sprayed it right in between his eyes, really good shot. he was rubbing his eyes and then he left … I wouldn’t be up here talking to anyone if it wasn’t for her,” Tovar said. “Pepper spray beat a knife.”
Pepper spray his girlfriend says she carries with her constantly to protect herself in the city.
“Even if nothing happens to you, you see that there’s a level of aggression bubbling under the surface at all times, and it doesn’t take a lot to break that, like last night,” Tovar said.
Tovar says once the train pulled into the 72nd Street station, good Samaritans helped make a tourniquet on his leg until EMS arrived and rushed him to the hospital, where he received treatment and stitches.
He is expected to make a full recovery in the next six months.
Watch John Dias’ report
The incident left other riders on edge.
“I do work the nightshift sometimes too, so I take the train in the middle of the night,” one man told CBS2’s John Dias. “I see unbelievable things sometimes.”
“The fact that this woman found it in her will break up a fight… I have so much admiration and respect for her,” said rider Dana Steiner.
While certain crimes, like shootings, are down since this time last year, transit crime is up around 41% with about 530 more cases, according to the NYPD’s latest data.
“Since the pandemic, it’s been a little bit crazier than normal on the subway,” rider Rebekah Tokatlilar said.
Do New Yorkers feel it’s the mayor’s fault for the increase in transit crime? Depends on who you ask.
“I feel like our mayor isn’t doing enough, and I feel like we need more cops in transit. Not just standing up here watching people, they need to be downstairs,” said rider Zina Zegans.
“I believe he’s doing the best he can in the situation he’s been given. It’s tough, he’s got a tough job. New York City is a tough city,” rider Peter Shaw said.
The city has been working to install surveillance cameras on every subway car as part of a new safety initiative. It’s unclear if they were installed on this train.
Anyone with information about the stabbing is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit a tip via their website or via DM on Twitter, @NYPDTips. All calls are kept confidential.