Sharpton stabbed stepping from car in Bensonhurst

January 13, 1991|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- The Rev. Al Sharpton was stabbed in the chest yesterday as he prepared to lead a protest demonstration through Brooklyn's Bensonhurst section with the parents of Yusuf K. Hawkins, the black youth slain there by a member of a white mob 17 months ago.

Police officers assigned to monitor the demonstration immediately seized and subdued a suspect, a white man said to be a Bensonhurst resident. Mr. Sharpton was taken to Coney Island Hospital, where he was listed in serious but stable condition. A hospital spokeswoman, Barbara Sullivan, said his wound was not life-threatening.

Witnesses said the assailant, who had apparently mingled with a crowd of about 200 black and white protesters, broke from a row of marchers lining up in a schoolyard, rushed at Mr. Sharpton as he stepped from a car and without saying a word plunged a knife into the shoulder area of his upper left chest.

The flamboyant 36-year-old minister had been subjected to taunts, threats and racial epithets in leading earlier protest marches in the predominantly white neighborhood, but he had not previously encountered violence there.

"It was horrible -- it was terrifying," said Theresa Hearn-Haynes, 36, of Spring, Texas, who was in New York to attend a New Alliance Party convention and had gone to Bensonhurst to join the protest. "It happened so fast. You could tell he was seriously injured."

As Mr. Sharpton fell, bleeding from the wound, the assailant dropped the knife, turned and attempted to flee. But his path was blocked by a crowd of protesters and police officers standing 20 to 25 feet from Mr. Sharpton. The suspect was tackled, wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by several officers.

Taken to the 62nd Precinct station house, the suspect was identified as Michael Riccard, 27. He was said to be a resident of Bensonhurst, but no other information was released.

After it became clear to the crowd in Bensonhurst that Mr. Sharpton's wound was not life-threatening, the protesters conducted a peaceful march through the neighborhood with no further incidents.

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