BY ANGELA MATUA & ROBERT POZARYCKI
The man behind a bloody and fiery crime spree through Astoria earlier this month was on police radar two days earlier for slashing a man in the chin, police reported.
According to Captain Peter Fortune, the commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, James Patrick Dillon, 23, approached a 26-year-old man at about 10:50 p.m. at 40-12 28th St. and slashed him in the chin. The victim was on a cigarette break at work, according to the captain.
“At that time we assumed it was an isolated incident,” Fortune said during the March 22 114th Precinct Community Council meeting in Astoria. “We opened up the typical investigation that we would do.”
Then, at about 11:20 a.m. on March 6, officers from the 114th Precinct learned that a 39-year-old woman was slashed in the head and face in front of a location on 36th Street near 28th Avenue. She was brought to Mount Sinai Hospital in Astoria in stable condition.
Fortune said officers were able to identify Dillon right away because the woman who was slashed knew him. Dillon and the woman grew up across the street from each other and the speedy identification led officers to distribute photos of the suspect, he said.
“If we didn’t identify this perpetrator from this point on we would basically be chasing a shadow and we wouldn’t be able to apprehend and prevent and stop what this individual’s rampage led to,” Fortune said.
At 1:30 p.m., Dillon slashed a 43-year-old man in Jackson Heights at the intersection of 84th Street and Roosevelt Avenue before entering a liquor store in Astoria more than an hour later.
He visited a liquor store at 38-18 Astoria Blvd. at 3:09 p.m., slashed 55-year-old store owner George Patouhas and assaulted and burned a 61-year-old homeless man who was in the liquor store as well.
Patouhas was later pronounced dead from his injuries at Mount Sinai Hospital; the homeless man was taken to Cornell Medical Center and was listed in stable condition.
At that point, officers from the 114th Precinct called in the Strategic Response Group and the Critical Response Command for help.
Dillon then broke into a home on 42nd Street at about 5:14 p.m. but fled the location without incident. According to authorities, a female resident spotted the suspect attempting to break into her apartment and, upon calling 911, observed the perpetrator fleeing down a fire escape.
At 5:31 p.m., Dillon attempted to break into a FDNY vehicle at 35th Street, just around the corner from the 114th Precinct.
Police spotted him and began to chase Dillon. Two members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group confronted Dillon — who was armed with a knife and a 12-pack of Corona light bottles filled with acetone — who positioned himself on the roof of his patio. According to police, Dillon refused to drop his weapons and attempted to light a bottle of acetone to through at the officers. He was unsuccessful but then began to throw the bottles at the officers’ faces, Fortune said.
The officers, “fearing for their life,” shot Dillon seven times, he said.
Dillon suffered a leg wound and was brought to Elmhurst Hospital along with the two officers, who suffered hand burns. According to Fortune, Dillon remains at the hospital recovering from his wounds.
A diagnosed schizophrenic, Dillon had not been taking his medication for “quite some time,” Fortune said. He added that Dillon came from a “hardworking, normal family.”
Fortune attended the wake of 55-year-old George Patouhas, owner of Astoria Liquors and Wines. Patouhas was well known and loved by the community and by officers in the 114th Precinct, Fortune said.
“It was just terrible trying to talk to his wife and his family,” Fortune said. “Everybody adores him in the neighborhood. Everybody knew who he was. Everybody was always welcome to the store. It’s just a tragedy and hopefully we put this behind us and his family heals and the community heals.”
Dillon may be charged with upwards of 10 crimes ― from murder, attempted murder, arson, burglary and more, according to Fortune.