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Cabbie-stabbing suspect transferred to Bellevue ward

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michael Enright is a 21-year-old film student
  • The attack occurred amid debate over the Islamic center near ground zero
  • The cabdriver is originally from Bangladesh

New York (CNN) -- Michael Enright, the man suspected of stabbing a cabdriver in New York after learning he was a Muslim, has been moved from jail to a psychiatric ward, a city official said.

New York City Corrections Department spokesman Stephen Morello said Enright, a 21-year-old film student at the School of Visual Arts, was transferred Thursday night from Rikers Island jail to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.

The decision was made after medical staff at Rikers jail examined Enright and determined he should be sent to the Bellevue ward, a locked unit with cells, corrections staff and medical staff.

The Tuesday night attack occurred amid public debate over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque to be called Park51 two blocks from the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.

Authorities have been reviewing multiple journals Enright had on him at the time of his arrest to see if they contain evidence that he had recently undergone some kind of mental or emotional change, a source at New York's City Hall said Thursday. The notebooks are filled with writing, some if it illegible, the source said.

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Video: New York cabdriver stabbed
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RELATED TOPICS
  • Stabbings
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Authorities also scoured Enright's journals for signs that had post-traumatic stress disorder or other emotional stress, the City Hall source said.

Enright is facing charges of second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime, second-degree assault as a hate crime, second-degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, police said.

Authorities said Enright was intoxicated at the time of the incident; they found an empty bottle of scotch in a backpack he had with him.

Those who know Enright were "shocked and dumbfounded" by his arrest, said Robert Chase, executive director of Intersections International, a group that promotes peace across faith and racial boundaries.

Enright volunteered with the nonprofit group, and it partially funded his trip in the spring to Afghanistan. As part of his thesis, Enright shot a film on American soldiers serving there, Chase said.

Arielle Schwarz, who attended Brewster High School in Putnam County, New York, and was part of his Enright's 2007 graduating class, said the suspect appeared "gentle and kind."

She said he "always seemed sort of lost in the shuffle," and the group he hung out with at school had "no real sense of direction."

"He never seemed to be this disturbed bigot that the papers are making him out to be," she said.

"I heard about his documentaries and was mainly surprised to hear about them just because he did always seem so lost, but I was happy that he had found his calling. It made for big news in Brewster."

When Enright first got into Ahmed Sharif's cab Tuesday night, the conversation was cordial, said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance.

The suspect "started out friendly, asking Mr. Sharif about where he was from, how long he had been in America, if he was Muslim and if he was observing fast during Ramadan," Desai said.

Then, after a few minutes of silence, Desai said Enright started cursing at Sharif and shouted "Assalamu Alaikum, consider this a checkpoint," before allegedly slashing him.

"Assalamu Alaikum" is an Arabic greeting that means "peace be upon you."

The taxi workers alliance said Sharif, 43, a practicing Muslim originally from Bangladesh, was slashed across the neck, face, shoulder and hand.

Bleeding profusely, Sharif escaped and flagged down a police officer, who arrested Enright, Desai said.