NEW YORK — It apparently began, police said, when a 23-year-old graffiti artist asked his mother if he could drive her Lexus. She said no.
The ensuing fight between them escalated into a bloody 28-hour rampage across New York City as the man – armed with five knives – fatally stabbed his stepfather, ex-girlfriend and her mother, ran down a pedestrian in a stolen car, and slashed and wounded four other people before being arrested in a Times Square subway station, police said.
Maksim Gelman had a bloodied kitchen knife when he was taken into police custody at about 9 a.m. Saturday after a nightlong manhunt, police said.
“It’s so horrendous and bizarre. We have no reason to know why he did this,” said police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who held up a photo of the knife that he said Gelman had used to slash a subway rider on the head and neck before he was apprehended. The man survived.
“I don’t recall seeing anything like this,” said Kelly, who has spent decades working for the New York Police Department.
He said charges were pending against Gelman.
The stabbing spree started just after 5 a.m. Friday, when police say Gelman fatally knifed his stepfather, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, at their apartment in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood. Gelman had gotten into a fight with his mother after she refused to allow him to use her Lexus, and Kuznetsov intervened and was attacked, Kelly said.
Police found the 54-year-old man’s body at his home in the predominantly Eastern European immigrant neighborhood. The Ukrainian-born Gelman and his mother became naturalized U.S. citizens in 2004 or 2005, Kelly said.
At about 10:30 a.m., several blocks away, Gelman entered the home of his ex-girlfriend and used a kitchen knife to fatally stab her mother, 56-year-old Anna Bulchenko, Kelly said. When 20-year-old Yelena Bulchenko arrived home at about 4 p.m., she found her mother dead in a pool of blood and called 911, police said.
Gelman apparently was still in the house, chasing Bulchenko as she fled outside and stabbing her 11 times as she died, Kelly said.
He then sped away in the Lexus to Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood, rear-ending a Pontiac. The driver confronted Gelman and was stabbed three times in the chest but survived and was in stable condition, Kelly said.
Gelman drove off in the Pontiac, hitting 62-year-old pedestrian Stephen Tanenbaum, who died of his injuries, police said. He later abandoned the car, engine running, in the driveway of a private house in Midwood, not far from a freight railroad line “Gelman frequented as a graffiti artist,” Kelly said.
Gelman was not seen again until just before 1 a.m. Saturday, when he confronted a livery cab driver in the Crown Heights area and stabbed him, Kelly said. Shortly after, he approached a couple in a Nissan, stabbing the man multiple times in the hand before hijacking the car, police said. Both men survived.
Just after 8 a.m. Saturday, passengers on a southbound No. 1 train in upper Manhattan noticed that a man on the train matched photos of Gelman they had seen in newspapers.
One passenger on the train got off at West 96th Street, approached officers on the platform and told them that a man fitting Gelman’s description knocked a newspaper out of her hand, saying, “Do you believe what they’re writing about me?” Kelly said.
Gelman jumped off the train at the West 34th Street station, crossed the tracks and hopped on a northbound No. 3 train, where he stabbed a passenger, the commissioner said.
Officers were in the driver’s compartment of the train after hearing reports that Gelman might be on board. Gelman made his way up to the driver’s door and pounded on it, “claiming that he was the police,” Kelly said.
One of the officers threw open the door and wrestled Gelman to the ground, knocking the knife from his hand, Kelly said.
He was taken into custody from the train at Times Square. None of Gelman’s relatives could be reached for comment Saturday.
“I saw a stream of people coming from the front of the train. They looked upset. They had white faces,” Hyun Jo of East Orange, N.J., told the New York Post. “The conductor announced they ‘found the guy who killed four people yesterday.’ I saw the blood in the other car when they let us off. It was crazy.”
Kelly described Gelman as an unemployed drug user with 10 previous arrests – mostly linked to graffiti and drugs.
The commissioner said the suspect’s statements to police were “pretty incoherent” – including one in which he stated that “she had to die.” Kelly said he wasn’t sure if that was a reference to the ex-girlfriend or someone else.
A longtime friend of Yelena Bulchenko, Angela Akopyan, said the first time she heard of Gelman was Friday. “I never heard of him prior to yesterday. Ever in my life,” she said.
She described Bulchenko as “always happy.” “She was just a really good person to be around,” Akopyan said.
Bulchenko worked as a receptionist at a dental office in Brooklyn, and had attended Kingsborough Community College, she said. The last time Akopyan saw her was Tuesday, when a group of friends got together at an Applebee’s. “It was the first time we saw each other in the past two weeks. We were making plans for the weekend like we always do,” Akopyan said. “And then it never happened.”