Guardian Angel founder shot, seriously hurt

June 20, 1992|By Thomas Easton | Thomas Easton,New York Bureau

NEW YORK -- Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa, still wearing a bandage on an arm broken in an April beating, was shot and seriously wounded early yesterday after boarding a cab near his home in Lower Manhattan.

Mr. Sliwa, 38, underwent five hours of surgery at Bellevue Hospital, but a bullet remained lodged in his abdomen.

Mr. Sliwa was listed in serious condition last night, but he was expected to make a full recovery.

Two members of his volunteer anti-crime brigade, with their signature red berets, and a New York city police officer were standing outside his hospital room.

"It definitely has to do with people looking for him, they were stalking him," said Mr. Sliwa's wife, Lisa. The April attack, she believed, was a warning. This time, she said, "they were trying to do more than send a message."

The attack occurred at about 5 a.m., when Mr. Sliwa was leaving home for an office near Pennsylvania Station where he records a radio show, "Angels in the Morning."

Ordinarily, said Angel's New York district leader Ieji Oda, Mr. Sliwa takes a subway, but he often works through the night and may have been behind schedule.

Mr. Sliwa got into a yellow taxi on the corner of St. Marks Avenue and Avenue A, next to Tompkins Square.

Accounts by police and Mrs. Sliwa suggest that Mr. Sliwa did not notice a second man in the taxi, who was slouched over in the front passenger seat. As the cab pulled away, the second man rose and fired at least two shots from a 25mm handgun, police said. Mr. Sliwa managed to climb through a window of the moving taxi and, on hitting the ground, called "code red" on a walkie-talkie, an expression the group uses for an emergency.

The message was heard by his wife, who repeated several times over the Angel's communications system, "That was Curtis, that was Curtis," said Mr. Oda.

Police and other emergency personnel were notified and within minutes had reached Mr. Sliwa. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital.

Hours after the incident, police recovered the taxicab a few blocks away from the scene of the shooting, with blood and a bullet hole in the back seat. It had been reported stolen the day before.

Given that Mr. Sliwa was able to get out of the cab, the shooting was probably not by professionals, a police officer, John Sissas, said.

Mrs. Sliwa said that the Guardian Angels frequently received threats and that Mr. Sliwa had many enemies.

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