Skip to main content

Police: NYC man arrested after going on stabbing, hijacking spree

By the CNN Wire Staff
Police say Maksim Gelman's rampage began after a fight with his mother, who refused to let him use her car.
Police say Maksim Gelman's rampage began after a fight with his mother, who refused to let him use her car.
  • NEW: Suspect tried to get into the front of a subway car, saying he was police
  • New York's top cop says Maksim Gelman, 23, fatally stabbed 3 people
  • Gelman allegedly hit and killed someone with a stolen car, stabbed five others
  • Three victims are Gelman's stepfather, ex-girlfriend and ex-girlfriend's mother

(CNN) -- A New York man fatally stabbed three people, slashed at least five others, hit and killed one man with a car and hijacked two vehicles before being wrestled to the ground early Saturday while trying to break into the cab of a subway car, police said.

Maksim Gelman, who is unemployed and known to authorities mostly as a graffiti artist, was arrested aboard a northbound train in Manhattan around 9 a.m. Saturday, about 28 hours after he allegedly began a spree that spanned three New York City boroughs, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

"It's so horrendous and bizarre," Kelly told reporters Saturday afternoon. "We have no reason that we can give you as to why he did this."

Around 5 a.m. Friday, police say Gelman, 23, got into a dispute with his mother at her home in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. She had refused to let him take her 2004 gray Lexus.

The suspect's stepfather intervened and was stabbed 11 times, according to Kelly. The stepfather -- Aleksandr Kuznetsov, 54 -- died, while the mother alerted authorities after surviving unscathed.

Police believe Gelman, having then taken the Lexus, fatally stabbed the mother of his ex-girlfriend 11 times in her Brooklyn home around 10:30 a.m. The victim, 56-year-old Anna Bulchenko, lived there -- which was about a mile north of the earlier stabbing -- with her daughter.

Around 4:15 p.m., Gelman's former girlfriend returned home, found her mother dead on the floor and called 911 three times, police said. Commissioner Kelly said all the calls, the last of which came in around 4:18 p.m., were brief and that authorities had arrived on the scene around 4:20 p.m.

In that short period, Gelman -- presumably lurking somewhere in the apartment -- went after 20-year-old Yelena Bulchenko with a knife, Kelly said. Likely stabbing her first inside, the suspect allegedly chased his former girlfriend into the street and -- after kniving the jacket sleeve of a passerby trying to stop him -- killed her.

"There's no indication on the (911) tapes that she was aware of him being present," Kelly said. "(It seemed) a tremendously traumatic experience for her."

Gelman hopped back into his Lexus, and rear-ended a 1995 Pontiac Bonneville, according to police. He stabbed that car's driver -- a 60-year-old man whom Gelman did not know -- in the shoulder and neck in a confrontation, ditched his Lexus and left the scene in the Pontiac. Police said they later found four kitchen knives inside the Lexus.

As of Saturday afternoon, the Pontiac's original driver was in stable condition at a local hospital recovering from three stab wounds to the chest, according to the commissioner.

Around 4:25 p.m., Gelman drove the Pontiac into a pedestrian about two miles away in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, Kelly said. The man, later identified as 60-year-old Steve Tannenbaum, died of his injuries.

The suspect eventually abandoned the Pontiac, which was found in Brooklyn near a railroad line that Gelman was known to frequent as a graffiti artist.

Shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday, according to Kelly, Gelman hopped into a cab in Brooklyn and stabbed its driver. That man is also in stable condition at a local hospital.

The commissioner said Gelman then got out of the cab and confronted a couple, stabbing a 25-year-old man in the hands and taking his keys to a Nissan. That man, who Kelly said suffered only defensive wounds, was treated and released at a hospital. The Nissan was later found in the New York City borough of Queens, not far from a subway station.

Around 8:30 a.m. Saturday, New York police got a phone tip that Gelman might have been riding on a southbound subway train in Manhattan.

Another witness, who approached police at a subway stop, said Gelman knocked from her hands a newspaper that featured his picture and alleged exploits and said to her, "Do you believe what they're writing about me?"

Gelman crossed the tracks at a midtown Manhattan stop and jumped onto a northbound express train.

The suspect stabbed another passenger -- a 40-year-old man, whom Gelman didn't appear to know -- in the head and neck sometime during his time onboard, Kelly said. That male subway passenger is also in stable condition.

Eventually, the suspect worked his way to the front cab of the train. The commissioner said Gelman pounded on the cab's door, yelling "Police" -- apparently trying to get in, by claiming he was a police officer. He did not appear to know two transit police officers, later identified as Terrance Howell and Tamara Taylor, were inside the cab with the train's operator.

Soon after, the officers -- with aid from off-duty New York police Det. Marcelo Razzo and an unnamed civilian nearby -- wrestled Gelman to the ground. No one was hurt in that scuffle, during which a knife fell to the ground.

Police also found Gelman had another, smaller, knife when they detained him. He also had what Kelly described as a "significant amount of money."

"This was a tremendous effort," Kelly said, referring to the various law enforcement units and tools used to look for Gelman.

Kelly said the suspect was mostly "incoherent" after being arrested, besides a statement that "she had to die." The commissioner said he did not know if "she" referred to Yelena Bulchenko, her mother or someone else.

As of Saturday afternoon, Gelman had not yet been charged with any crime and was in a Manhattan police precinct.

Kelly said Gelman had 10 previous arrests, mostly for drug charges and graffiti, plus one robbery charge. His most recent arrest came on January 26, when he was accused of possessing crack.

For roughly the past seven years, Gelman has been a naturalized U.S. citizen. He arrived in this country with his father and mother in 1992 from his native Ukraine.

CNN's Rob Frehse contributed to this report.