Skip to content

Michael was stabbed on a bus

It’s amazing how quickly things can change.

Michael lives with his wife, Mu, in New York City. He works for HP, and his job is to visit various locations around the city and do equipment repair. So he often finds himself on public transportation.

One afternoon he was on the city bus, headed to his next job. He expected it to be a routine trip. But without any warning, he found himself trying desperately to get away from a man with a knife.

And here’s something you need to know as you listen to Michael’s story. This conversation was recorded about 3 years ago. We weren’t able to go live with it until now, because we had to wait until the case had made it’s way through the courts and was resolved. That has now happened, so at the end I’ll give you an update on how it turned out.

Michael
Michael

 

Michael's leg after surgery
Michael’s leg after surgery

 

The knife used in the attack
The knife used in the attack (Photo courtesy of Greg Mango, NY Daily News)

 

Willie Gomez, the man who attacked Michael and another passenger
Willie Gomez, the man who attacked Michael and another passenger

 

Full show notes and pictures for this episode are here:
https://WhatWasThatLike.com/163

Graphics for this episode by Bob Bretz. Transcription was done by James Lai.

Want to discuss this episode and other things with thousands of other WWTL listeners? Join our podcast Facebook group at WhatWasThatLike.com/facebook (many of the podcast guests are there as well)

 

Get every episode ad-free, AND get all the Raw Audio exclusive episodes to binge, by joining the other listeners at What Was That Like PLUS.
Try it free:
iPhone: at the top of the What Was That Like podcast feed, click on “Try free”
Android: on your phone, go to WhatWasThatLike.com/PLUS and click to try it free on any app

Sponsor deals:

Cancel your unwanted subscriptions by going to RocketMoney.com/whatwas.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Give online therapy a try at BetterHelp.com/whatwas and get on your way to being your best self.

Go to cookunity.com/What or enter code What before checkout for 50% off your first week.

Go to Seed.com/WHAT and use code 25WHAT to get 25% off your first month.

Go to rakuten.com or get the Rakuten app to start saving today!

To get 15% off your next gift, go to UNCOMMONGOODS.com/WHATWAS

Episode transcript (download transcript PDF):

It’s amazing how quickly things can change.

 

Michael lives with his wife, Mu, in New York City. He works for HP, and his job is to visit various locations around the city and do equipment repair. So he often finds himself on public transportation.

 

One afternoon he was on the city bus, headed to his next job. He expected it to be a routine trip. But without any warning, he found himself trying desperately to get away from a man with a knife.

 

Here’s something you need to know as you listen to Michael’s story. This conversation was recorded about 3 years ago. We weren’t able to go live with it until now, because we had to wait until the case had made its way through the courts and was resolved. That has now happened, so at the end I’ll give you an update on how it turned out.

 

 

Scott

Living in New York City, people think, “Wow, you must see all kinds of stuff.” Have you seen attacks like this one before?

 

Michael

Well, I got to tell you not to this degree where very severe injuries were inflicted. You see fights and a lot of arguments but they don’t generally turn into fisticuffs or worse. Generally, it’s squashed by other people on the bus. Typically, most of the transportation in New York City is very crowded – subways and buses – but the COVID situation kind of makes everything a little bit different. There weren’t as many people out and about.

 

Scott

For people listening in the future, right now, it’s like halfway through 2020 and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. New York is such a crowded place overall. Just about anywhere you go, you’re in a crowd of people pretty much, but it’s not as bad as it is usually because of the virus.

 

Michael

Right. And this was back in the very beginning of May. It was at the height of the pandemic and the numbers were bad. The deaths were starting to rise and the curve was definitely on the rise, so that did keep people at home. And yeah, it was like a ghost town downtown. Times Square was completely empty, which is a very creepy feeling when you’re used to all of the tourists and all of the people coming out for lunch from the big corporations down there. Nobody– I mean, literally, nobody was down there.

 

We were told to stay home if we could, but yet buses were still running. Both the buses and the subways were still running on somewhat normal schedules. They shut down late at night to do cleanings and they still are doing that. So between really late at night, around 1 to 4 AM, they would shut down the subways to clean them, so no service was available.

 

Scott

Is this bus route a route that you take regularly?

 

Michael

Not to get downtown. So many things were different about what happened that day, so this is just the beginning. Like, getting on the bus is not something I would normally do because the service call that I had that day was right on the bus route, essentially, right across Columbia University. So I would just walk through the university to get to the other side of the university.

 

Scott

And what kind of work do you do?

 

Michael

Field service. A technician. I work on office equipment, computers, printers, copiers, etc.

 

Scott

That day, you deliberately chose– would you normally take the subway?

 

Michael

Normally, my route takes me all the way downtown. So, Battery Park and the Financial District – that’s my normal route. I would just hop on the subway and go all the way downtown. But for this specific day, I was tasked to take care of a service call at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, or what some people say Mount Sinai Morningside because that’s where it’s at. The bus seemed to be a better option because it literally was a short walk from just across Columbia University where it dropped me off.

 

Scott

When you’re on the bus, do you normally feel safe?

 

Michael

Yeah, I mean, it’s hustle and bustle, usually. There are a lot of people. You’re crammed in there like sardines typically. Then, during this COVID thing– I had been riding a subway before this incident happened. I feel like it’s safe because, usually, there are other people around. Usually, there’s a sense of being able to escape, if you will, like you’re not too far away from a stop, you can just hop out if something bad is happening, but that’s not what happened on that day, for sure.

 

Scott

I’m curious as to how are you allowed to protect yourself or what kind of weapons are you able to carry, if any, to protect yourself against something like this?

 

Michael

Yeah, that’s a sticky situation here in New York City. Not only the New York state laws are in the books. Obviously, you can’t carry a gun unless you have a concealed weapons permit and they don’t just give those out to anybody. Typically, ex law enforcement or law enforcement now have to have a reason, basically. It’s “May Issue” the permits. I’ve looked into it because I come from another state, California, that has similar laws. Even though the Second Amendment is supposed to be something that we have as a US citizen, New York pretty much puts a kibosh on all that.

 

So, weapons that we can carry in New York City– you’re allowed to carry a non-foldable four-inch knife. However, because I work downtown and I go into federal buildings, I don’t carry anything because they don’t allow entry of any of that in those buildings like 26 Federal and 2 Penn Plaza in Midtown. Many other buildings don’t allow any weapons of any kind. They actually search my bag when I go to these sites.

Scott

And metal detectors as well, I’m sure.

 

Michael

Absolutely. A lot of places– the bigger places actually scan your bag like you’re going through the airport, so I don’t carry anything.

 

Scott

So you’ve got to feel a little bit vulnerable. I would think not knowing the people around you and not having any way to defend yourself other than if you know how to fight, I guess.

 

Michael

Yeah. I mean, I was in the military, so we did learn some basic skills. So, if I had a weapon, I would definitely know how to use it. I’m range qualified for marksmanship. We handled weapons like knives and batons and certain things. I was in the Air Force, but we had to learn that stuff because we went overseas. We did work with the military police and we had some training, so I feel confident that I could defend myself somewhat but, as we get into more details of the story, I’ll tell you why that wasn’t an option.

 

Scott

Well, let’s talk about that. You got on the bus. Just take us through what happened that day.

 

Michael

Yeah. Again, I got on this bus route because it was just more convenient. I don’t know what was going through my mind. If I had just gotten on the subway like I normally do, possibly, this would have never happened and probably would not have happened. So I got on this bus. It’s a very short walk to get on the M100 bus. It picked me up on West 190th Street and Broadway. I live on West 190th and Bennett Avenue, which is a half of a block up the hill – just walk up a little hill and you’re at my building – so very convenient. Just hopped on the bus. They’re not even scanning your subway card or your MTA card. You essentially just hop on.

 

So I hop on thinking, “Okay, I’ll take this bus down to West 125th Street. And then I’ll transfer to the subway to take me to Columbia University 116th Street.” Everything was fine. I sat towards the front of the bus. There’s a little partition that’s protecting the driver and the disability area where they normally seat wheelchairs and strap them in. They have this little plastic sheath and some chains blocking that area off, so you can’t just walk through that area. You basically have to break that whole thing apart and go through it.

 

We stopped at West 131st Street and we allowed some people to come on board. I didn’t notice any of them. I was sitting in my spot getting ready because, essentially, my stop was pretty close. It was two stops away. 125th Street is where I was headed. I was mentally getting ready for the call. I was thinking about what I needed to bring with me and getting my tools ready. We have a little system on the phone that we have to log everything that we do. So I was dispatched to the call. I put my phone in my pocket.

 

Then, once we started moving again off of 131, I heard some yelling in the back of the bus. This is a tandem bus. If you know anything about the buses in New York City, you’ll know there are two different types. You have one standard bus that holds about 30-35 people, and then you have a tandem bus that is actually split in the middle so it can move and get around corners like those fire trucks that you see with a driver in the back, how they kind of swivel in the middle. That’s this bus. So it’s a really long bus. It’s probably about 30 feet long.

 

Scott

Can you walk between those two sections on the bus?

 

Michael

Yes. That swivel point is a platform you can actually step on and step through. So, that commotion was way in the back about 25 feet away. I couldn’t really make out what was going on but, as soon as I picked up my head and looked to the right towards the rear of the bus, all I saw was people starting running towards me. I was just looking around and trying to figure out what was going on. Here they came running right past me. Then, I got a glimpse of the suspect for the first time behind these people, not chasing them. He was walking, which is kind of odd in a way. It’s just very surreal, almost like a movie was going on right in front of me, like Friday the 13th or something. There was really no sense of anything wrong other than they were running away from something. So I thought maybe there was a fight back there and they were just getting away from the situation.

 

Then, I saw this guy walking closer to me. There’s a young lady that had passed me and was the last one that ran past me. Then, there was an older lady having trouble, so I grabbed her and helped her get behind me. Those people were getting through the chains to get to the front of the bus. I caught a glimpse of this guy as I was helping this woman. I caught a glimpse of him in the corner of my eye. Then, that’s the first time I saw the knife. Immediately, the fight or flight system in your body just took control. Like you lose all mental capacity and you either are going to face this situation or you run. So I started backing up and making sure this lady got through to the front of the bus where everybody else was congregating, and he just kept getting closer and closer as I was trying to get her out of danger.

 

Scott

How was he holding the knife? Was it in, like, an attack position or just carrying it?

 

Michael

No, he was just carrying it on his side, somewhat trying to obscure it, like, maybe, he was trying to hide it from me so I wouldn’t see it – that’s how I was looking at it – but I did see it eventually. This guy is well over six feet tall, probably about 6’4. I’m 5’9, 150 pounds – totally average. So, this guy is like a linebacker. I’m this little kicker trying to kick a field goal and here comes this linebacker barreling down on me a little bit more dangerous than a linebacker with this huge knife.

 

Scott

Yeah, it’s not a fair fight even without the knife, right?

 

Michael

Yeah. I mean, I would maybe be able to get a swing in on him but I would be done for either way. So I was backing up. I was not running. I was backing up so that I could see what he was doing. He’s got a knife. I want to defend myself as best I can. I don’t want him to stab me in the back as I’m trying to get away. I was getting closer to the chains. I was just backing up. Everybody finally got through the chains. Now, I have a decision to make. He’s literally, like, 3 feet away from me, almost within arm’s reach, and I still have to get through the chains. What the hell am I supposed to do?

 

My thought process is, “This is it. I’m done for. He’s going to do whatever he wants to me. There’s nothing I can do.” He took the first swing with the knife and I moved. It cuts right through my jacket. I had this woven jacket on and my blue HP work shirt. It cuts right through the jacket. It’s a pretty heavy jacket and it cut through my shirt and luckily missed me. So, I froze for some reason, almost in shock – I think that’s the only way I can describe it. Like, “Holy shit, he actually cut me.” The next thing I know, I feel like he either shoved me or ran into me and basically tackled me to the ground. He obviously thought maybe he cut me and was going to do something worse.

 

So he basically threw me to the ground. I hit my head on the last seat and just ripped open my head. I had a pretty nasty gash on my head from that first assault. I’m on the ground trying to scoop myself through the chains and the last thing that’s outside of those chains is my legs. Then, I saw him swinging the knife one more time and I tried to move and kick my leg out and it just caught the inner part of my right leg. The knife went all the way in – probably four inches, I think – almost coming out the other side of my leg, and this is a big knife. That thing was probably at least a foot long. The blade was a foot long. The total knife was probably about 20 inches. It was almost a machete. It’s not just the size of this guy. That knife just puts the heebie jeebies in you and you just don’t think straight. You’re just in that mode of survival. All I could think of is, “If it’s going to be my time, I’m going to help as many people get out because, essentially, I was following everybody going through the chains anyway, and I was stuck.”

 

Scott

You were just the last one out.

 

Michael

Yeah. I was the last one out, literally. I didn’t realize what was going on until it was too late.

 

Scott

Sometimes, when a knife is extremely sharp, it can cut and you don’t feel it immediately.

 

Michael

That’s well described. Maybe it was because of the adrenaline at that point. I got swung at once already, thinking I got stabbed. I was laying on the ground thinking I was bleeding already, but I was not. Then, he stabbed me again. I’m sure the adrenaline was kicking cause I didn’t feel the actual impact of the blade. I didn’t feel it until he removed it. The weird thing is that the blade was in me for a good 5-6 seconds, and he was moving it. He was going up. It entered just above my knee in my quadricep inner part of the leg, and he moved it up a good 4-5 inches. So he sticks it in and does an upward motion with it inside my leg.

 

Scott

It sounds like he’s deliberately trying to do as much damage as possible.

 

Michael

Exactly. That was my thinking. He was just trying to deliberately cause some havoc. We find out later he tried to be put down by the cops – was not successful in that either. But yeah, the first victim, I think, got it worse. I mean, the first victim got stabbed in his cheek.

 

Scott

And that was back before everybody started running.

 

Michael

Yeah. Apparently, it went through his hand or part of his hand and ended up right near his nose and a gash down to his lip, his mouth, and everybody back there saw that happen. They were privy to see that whole thing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see that. Otherwise, I would have been through those chains first because I was well ahead of everybody. I mean, there were only eight people on that bus including the suspect, so it was really weird that there would be a tandem bus at that time of day anyway.

 

Scott

You got to be thinking this, what is going on? I don’t even know this guy.

 

Michael

The way I was looking at it at the time was this guy is obviously crazy. You don’t know why he’s doing this. I don’t know why he’s doing it. I don’t know what his aim was or what kind of statement he was trying to make, but I feel like I got singled out just because I was the last opportunity he had, essentially. We were approaching the next stop. He’s got the knife in my leg. He’s moving it up in the process of doing more damage, and the bus comes to a screeching halt. Like, everybody was lurched forward, including him, and that motion essentially made him take the blade out. Like, he lost his balance, so he was trying to catch his balance again, so he let go of me and then decided to run out the door just to get away or try to get away.

 

Scott

Did the bus stop because that’s when the bus driver realized something was happening or was it the actual stop?

 

Michael

This is, like, a really bang bang situation where people are running towards the front, they’re climbing through this chained-up area, so they’re alerting the bus driver that it’s happening. Meanwhile, I was on the ground trying to get through the chains and he was stabbing me. So, right at that moment, the bus driver slammed on the brakes. Who knows what would have happened if that didn’t happen. I think he really did want to kill me. The bus lurched to a stop. He tried to get off the bus, and he successfully got out of the bus. He went out the side door, which was the closest exit.

 

I heard later that he tried to hide behind some cars, just really weird. You’re not going to get away with doing something like this when there have been several people who saw you do it. They saw you getting off the bus, they were tracking your movement, and he decided to hunker down behind some parked cars. I don’t get that. He’s deranged. Luckily, there were 2 cops from the 6th district, I think, who were on patrol nearby and they heard the commotion and were right there. It’s very odd that they would be right there, but they essentially saw the whole thing – him coming off the bus. They already had the description over the radio, I’m assuming, because they drew their guns on him. Luckily, he dropped the knife and they were able to apprehend him.

 

At that point, I knew I was in dire straits. There was so much blood streaming down my leg. It filled up my shoe. I was trying to get up because I still didn’t know if he was coming back because he just ran out and maybe he was trying to run it back in. I was just trying to get closer to the bus driver and call for help, making sure the bus driver was calling for help, and knew that I was there. So in the midst of trying to gather myself and get up just to assess what damage there is, I was already bleeding out. My shoe was full of blood. I was dragging my leg and there was just a trail of blood behind me.

 

The only thing I could really do was to remove a piece of nylon thread out of my backpack and use it as a tourniquet – another thing we learned in the military. So, I cinched this down on my leg as tight as I could and started to go into shock. I was kind of slinking down on this chair and that’s the last thing I remember before the cops and the paramedics started coming in because I woke up in a pool of blood and a police officer was cinching a real tourniquet on my leg. So, I think I was out for about 25 to 30 seconds, long enough for a little pool of blood to form.

 

Scott

And you had a head wound as well.

 

Michael

Yeah. So blood was streaming down the back of my neck.

 

Scott

The head wounds always bleed excessively as well. So that place must have been a bloody mess.

 

Michael

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it looked like a war zone. You would think that something bad happened in there, for sure. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the TV Show, Dexter, our American horror story. Some of those shows show some gruesome things. It definitely looked like that, like something happened on that bus, for sure.

 

Scott

So the EMTs got there pretty quickly then.

 

Michael

Yeah. We weren’t too far away from where the cops were, and there were routinely ambulances going up and down that area. There was a hospital nearby and Mount Sinai was just down on 114th Street. So we were about three-quarters of a mile away from the hospital. We have this app now called Citizen. Maybe you’ve seen this app. Essentially, this company monitors the dispatch for the sheriff and the police departments around the area, so it’ll alert you if something is going on in your vicinity. So you have GPS running, you have this app running, and it’ll give you a push notification that something’s going on in your area.

 

There are things happening all the time – a lot of assaults, shootings, and knifings. A lot of it is gang activity, and you can see little pockets of this activity, and you can definitely say that’s probably gang-related. But every once in a while, you’ll see one pop up in the area where nothing usually happens. It’s mainly, like, a robbery or assault – something somewhat minor. Somebody is trying to rob somebody and assaults them. That’s the sort of thing you usually hear about, not somebody carrying a machete through a bus. Again, that’s something you hear about from London or some of these other places that have had a problem with people coming from overseas – the terrorists actually causing some violence in the city.

 

Scott

At what point were you thinking, “I need to call my wife and tell her something’s going on”?

 

Michael

Again, this COVID situation has really made things horrible for a situation like this, especially here I was in the hospital recovering. This happened at around 2 PM – I got stabbed. I got to the hospital at about 2.15 PM. So they’re wheeling me through the hospital about 2.15 PM – I looked up and I saw the clock – so, literally, within 15 minutes of being stabbed on the bus, I was already on a gurney on my way into the emergency room. You’re not thinking, “This is something that’s going to happen. If it does, it’s not going to happen to me. I mean, what have I done to anybody?” Once I was in the grasp of the cops, putting the tourniquet on my leg, I knew, okay, things would start to settle down. I gained consciousness again. They put me on the gurney and I’m just trying to disassociate the pain.

 

One thing they teach you in military school basic training is to deal with pain. You try to disassociate with it. So I just kept saying, “That’s my backpack. Don’t forget my backpack.” I focused on that backpack, not only because it had everything that I needed to do my job, there are good $400 worth of tools in there. I said, “Don’t forget my backpack.” I just kept saying it over and they’re saying, “Okay, we got you.” That took the edge off of the pain.

 

Scott

Was your phone in the backpack or did you have it with you?

 

Michael

There was one in my jacket pocket and then I carried a personal phone in my pants pocket. So they’re putting me into this ambulance and they’re starting to assess my wounds and they’re like, “We have to cut off your clothes. Do you care about these clothes?” As I looked at them, they were already wrecked, blood’s everywhere, my shoes were ruined, my clothes were all bloody, and my jacket was all torn up. So I said, “Go ahead, cut everything off.” So immediately I lost all of my communication devices. They took my clothes and put them in a bag. I saw them do this while they were shoving IVs in me and starting to administer medicine. They’re shoving everything in a clear plastic bag. I saw them while they were doing this. So yeah, trying to tell anybody what was going on was impossible.

 

After I figured out they had my backpack, I saw them put that in the bag, I kind of relaxed a little bit and just said, “Call my wife.” That was the next thing I focused on – somebody has to know what’s going on. “Call my wife.” They’re asking, “Who’s your wife?” I said, “Look in my phone. It’s Mu Yang. She’s my wife.” And then they said, “Okay, we got you” again. “I got you.” That’s just a saying in New York but, apparently, they didn’t have me because nobody would call my wife. The wound itself was so traumatic that I think everybody just forgot everything that was going on and was just focused on the issue that I was basically bleeding out. I’m assuming, had I died, they probably would have called her because that would be the first thing they’re thinking about – to notify the next of kin. That’s typically what they would do for a stabbing victim. What’s the protocol in the COVID-19 era? I mean, they had all of my materials. I found out later that according to the protocol of the hospital, I was supposed to get my belongings as soon as I was out of recovery. That didn’t happen.

 

They gave me fentanyl when they were cleaning out the wound and the last thing I remember is somebody sticking their hand in my leg and the lights went out. If it was me passing out or the fentanyl finally kicking in, I just felt immense pain and then the lights went out. I was given fentanyl. I was given some other pretty hard drugs, oxycodone, in recovery, just to get off the fentanyl, probably, and still give me something. They started with oxycodone and it doesn’t take much again. I’m only 150 pounds. So whatever they were giving me, it was working because I didn’t feel anything. I found out later that there was some nerve damage in the leg, which also limited the amount of pain I was feeling. All in all, I’m lucky to be alive. That was just such a nasty wound and it had missed all the major arteries. That’s why I’m still here talking to you.

 

Scott

At that point, you kind of lost consciousness or were enjoying the pain medication and you thought they were going to call your wife, even though they didn’t right away. I spoke with Mu and got a little bit of her perspective on this.

 

Let’s hear what was happening from her point of view.

 

Mu

It was close to 6 o’clock and he was still not there. I was like, “That’s kind of weird.” So I texted him and I said, “Hey, is it taking longer than normal? Try to text me back.” I didn’t think too much of it because it’s not unusual for him to spend a few more hours if the job is more difficult, but he always lets me know when he needs to work overtime or something. So I was like, “That was a little bit weird.” Between 6 and 8 o’clock, I texted multiple times by a different, like, messaging system, of course, and I was like, “That was really weird that he never replied to anything.”

 

By 8 o’clock – that was after dinner – I started calling him. So between 8 and maybe 9.30, I called him maybe 8-10 times, and my anxiety started to build at the time, but I wasn’t freaking out. I was like, “That was kind of weird.” So close to 10 o’clock, my thought process was, “Okay, you know what? Maybe he’s cheating on me. That would be great.” Because your thought process is such that, knowing him, there are only two possibilities because I’m a very rational and logical woman. So I was like, “Well, there are two possibilities. One, he’s injured in an accident. Two, he’s cheating on you.” So I was like, “Please, God.” And I’m not even a Christian. So I was like, “Please God, please let it be that he’s cheating on me and not something else. He’s safe and sound physically. If he’s safe, I can accept anything. I can work out anything.” So that’s my thought process. A little weird, but that’s what happens when people deal with this sort of stuff.

 

By 10 o’clock, I was like, “Okay, you know what? Let me just go ahead and check my voice message,” even though I never do, and there was a chirpy nurse, and it goes, “Hi, my name is Michelle. I’m a nurse at Mount Sinai Morningside. I’m taking care of your husband. He’s out of surgery. He said he will contact you later. Bye.” I’m like, “Wow, what a cheerful way to deliver such a message without any information.” So I immediately called the hospital and they said, “Well, ma’am, we couldn’t give you any further information because of HIPAA.”

 

I’m like, “I work at a medical center. I had to take HIPAA training every single year. I know what it is. I know what it says. It doesn’t apply to spouses. If you can verify my information, which we can easily do, you should be able to, because you already told me that he’s out of surgery. You already told me what happened to Michael Jones. All I need to know is exactly what happened and if he’s okay. It’s okay if you guys don’t want to tell me any details.” They say, “No, we cannot do this.” Back and forth. And I said, “How about if I show up with my ID and then you can tell me what happened?” And they said, “No. Because of the COVID situation, we do not allow any visitors.” I was like, “Okay, you told me he’s in the hospital, but you refuse to tell me anything, not even okay or not okay.”

 

I keep calling the nurse every 15 minutes. By the 6th or 7th call, the nurse got so fed up with me. Finally, somebody – I don’t know which one – finally gave me a number. He said, “Okay, call this number.” I don’t know what that number is. When I called the number, it turned out to be the vascular surgeon’s number. The guy sounded kind of annoyed at the beginning. He said, “How did you get this number? Who are you?” Because it’s his personal cell phone. So even though the nurse couldn’t tell me anything about Michael, they somehow gave me the surgeon’s private cell phone, which they’re not supposed to, either.

 

Anyway, luckily, this surgeon was very understanding and very nice. He told me what he understood had happened and he told me Michael’s conditions, that he dealt with the pain very well. He had a brave face on and he handled the stress very well. Then, he said he personally looked into the wound. He assured me that there was no major artery damage. Then he said, “The surgery went well.” So that’s what I really wanted to hear.

 

Michael

The next clock that I could see was right in front of me. 10.15 PM – eight hours from the time I was wheeled into the emergency room and then the last thing I heard the surgeon say was, “We need to get him up into the trauma surgeon surgery immediately.” I was in the surgery recovery room when I woke up.

 

Scott

And what was the assessment of your injuries?

 

Michael

In recovery, I’m asking all kinds of questions. I had some medical training because both of my parents were registered nurses. I had read all of their literature. I had wanted to become a doctor but chose to go into the military instead. One being that I would have to stay at home and then go to school. That wasn’t the first option that I wanted, so I enlisted instead. Waking up in that recovery room, I started asking what’s going on and what happened.

 

They told me about the stabbing and about what they did to the leg. They cleaned it out. There were 55 total stitches that were put in – some on the inside to repair the muscle damage, essentially fileted my quadricep muscle. So if you’ve ever had, like, a steak and they butterfly it, essentially that’s what that knife did to my quadricep muscle. It basically butterflies my quadricep. They had to stitch that all back together, clean the wound, and then stitch up the skin on the outside. So it’s just a nasty-looking wound. I’ve had some pretty nasty falls and broken some bones, and had some issues in the Air Force where I almost lost a finger – my thumb on my left hand – so I’m no stranger to pain and being in a hospital.

 

So I’m asking all these questions and they’re telling me they cleaned it out, they left the sutures a little bit loose because of the way that this muscle was going to start healing. If they put it too tight, it would cause some problems. So, every time I move, try to move the leg, you could feel things, you could feel the stitches moving, a painful one, but it’s such a weird feeling to feel – like you’re being poked by a needle and it’s being moved in and out, and there are 20 or so stitches, so there’s, like, 40 of those needle feelings down the leg. I totally lost feeling on the whole left side of my leg from right below the groin area down to the bottom part of my knee. I couldn’t feel it at all. It was numb. So, obviously, nerve damage.

 

That whole night. I haven’t talked to her. It was literally 10.15. I was starting to come off the meds. I did get a private room and it’s about right around midnight. They brought a phone in and said, “Your wife’s trying to call you.”

 

Mu

I got to talk to him. He sounded very tired, but it was just very reassuring to hear his voice. He told me what had happened and he was tired. We didn’t talk for very long because he was obviously exhausted from everything, so I let him go just after a few minutes. It was really hard to sleep. Of course, I couldn’t go to sleep. So, finally, I moved over to his side of the bed and I slept on his pillow, and that’s how I had a few hours of sleep.

 

Michael

I’m usually back home by 5 or 6 PM, or at least say something like, “Okay, I’m on my way home,” but because of the COVID situation, because of the HIPAA laws, they weren’t able to divulge any information. Even though she’s my wife, how are you going to prove that? And she’s not allowed to come into the hospital because of the COVID situation. So it was just a big mess.

 

Scott

What do you know about the man who attacked you?

 

Michael

Hadn’t seen him before. Didn’t even see him come on the bus. He wasn’t there when I got on but, as people were getting on, as we progressed through the bus stops, he must’ve gotten on. Who knows?

 

Scott

You found out a little bit about him and his history.

 

Michael

Yeah. My wife is the investigator of the family. You don’t want to be put in a bad situation and my wife gets word of it because she’ll find everything out about it.

 

Scott

So what did she find out?

 

Michael

Just that this person had been previously incarcerated for up to 15 years in federal prison for previous assaults. He had just gotten out of a relationship with his wife. They had a child together, so he wasn’t dealing with that separation. I think that was part of the anxiety that precipitated this attack, possibly. He was unemployed, a drug addict, and not on the right track, for sure. With all those things going on, that’s not someone you want to encounter. Yeah. I mean, from what it sounds like he was trying to do the death by cop. So I would assume he’s carrying that knife because he wants to have an altercation with the police. How he ended up stabbing the two of us, that’s what I’m still questioning.

 

Scott

Well, when mental illness is involved, logic doesn’t really play a part.

 

Michael

Yeah. Especially if he’s schizophrenic and hears voices. That’s possibly one aspect of this. That’s what he claimed to his sister after the fact that he was hearing voices.

 

Scott

I should mention, I did contact his sister to possibly comment as part of this episode and she declined. One thing I found interesting is that, from the criminal charges, your attack was assault and the other man’s attack was attempted murder. Do you know why that was or how they differentiated that?

 

Michael

Apparently, it’s the way of the injury and then the intent of the injury. I got a description. We ended up in the same trauma area of the hospital, so I was asking the other guy – again, trying to deflect my pain. I was talking to the other victim and asking him what happened. He said, “The guy was trying to cut my neck. He was swinging. He was trying to insert the knife in his neck and he did one of these– like, put his head down, put his hand up, it goes through a piece of his hand and into his face, so the hand deflected it away from the neck and that’s how he got stabbed in the face.

 

Scott

That makes sense then as far as the legal charges. I mean, if you’re going to knife somebody’s neck, that’s obviously attempted murder.

 

Michael

Anything from the shoulders up.

 

Scott

But in your case, even at your leg, if it would have cut an artery–

 

Michael

Yeah, I would have been done. In 30 seconds, I would have bled out, for sure.

 

Scott

Would you be nervous about riding the bus again?

 

Michael

I am, if it’s empty. I definitely scope out who’s getting on the bus and who’s on the bus. But interestingly enough, I’m using a cane now. So guess what I get to do? I get to get in the front of the bus behind that partition with the chains and everything, and I’m right by the driver. There’s no safer place to be on that bus than where I get to sit now.

 

Scott

And you have a long stick in your hand.

 

Michael

Exactly. So I do have a weapon now. I mean, this is just so ridiculous – some of these laws. I ended up talking to the New York Post – the first journalist that had contacted me. Somehow, they got my phone number. Maybe Mu gave it to them or they got my phone number possibly from work. They knew that I worked for HP. Obviously, I was wearing the shirt and they got pictures of me in my shirt. So in any case, it was kind of weird. The detectives came and saw me at about 12 or 12.30 right around the time that Mu was trying to call me. These detectives showed up and started questioning me. So I got through that questioning. They gave me their business card and told me, “If there’s anything else, blah, blah, blah, let us know.” Right after they left, the New York Post called me for comment. So there are a couple of articles out there. The Daily News contacted me as well, and then ABC picked up the story. So there’s a short video. ABC7 shot some video of the bus, the aftermath, if you will.

 

Scott

The New York Daily News was actually on scene shortly after it happened. I mean, they must have reporters roaming. Well, the photographer, Greg Mango, I spoke with him and he graciously allowed us to his photo of the actual weapon. So we’ll have a picture of that on the website and the show notes of this episode for people who want to see it. It is.

 

Michael

Wait til you get a load of that – when you see that blood on the knife, that’s essentially how far it went into my leg. There’s a demarcation of blood on that blade and you see it in the picture. So it’s a good, at least, 4 inches.

Scott

I’m glad you survived. I know you’re still recovering. Thanks for sharing your story.

 

Michael

Thanks for having me on, Scott.

 

Scott

A big thanks to my friend Megan for connecting me with Michael and Mu. That’s often how I hear about these things – someone knows someone who went through something. So please, keep your eyes and ears open for me because I’m always looking for new stories.

 

As I mentioned at the top of the show, we recorded this and then we had to wait. I would check the court website every month or two, to see the status. And every time, there would be a new date for the next court appearance like 2-3 months later. This went on for about 3 years after the attack.

 

Finally, the case was closed because it ended in a plea deal. The Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, Jr, announced on November 9, 2023 that the perpetrator, 49 year old Willie Gomez, was sentenced to 14 years in state prison. Even though there were two victims, his conviction was for ONE count of Assault in the First Degree, which is a class B felony. So it’s 14 years in state prison, then 5 years of post-release supervision. Personally, I think he got off pretty easy for such a vicious and random attack.

 

You can see pictures of Michael and Mu, and get a full transcript of this episode, at WhatWasThatLike.com/163.

 

Before we wrap up, I wanted to talk for just a minute about how YOU can submit a story for the podcast. I get people sending me emails, or Instagram DMs, or Facebook messages with their story ideas. But really, the best way to do this is through the website. If you go to WhatWasThatLike.com and click on “Your Story”, it will take you to a page with the full instructions.

 

The mistake that a lot of people make when sending in their story is they say, “I’ll try to make this brief”. In this situation, being brief is not a good thing! What I really, really want to see is a detailed story of what happened. When I read something like that, even though it takes longer to read, it means I can get a much clearer picture of how well that story will work as an episode.

 

The downside of a really detailed story is that it’s more work for you. You might write out that long story, and it still might not work as an episode of the podcast. But including all the details is one way to improve your chances. And in some cases, even though it might not be a good fit as a full episode, a lot of them work as Listener Stories, and I need those too. If there’s any way I can use your story for the podcast, I want to do it.

 

Graphics for this episode were created by Bob Bretz. Full episode transcription was created by James Lai.

 

And here we are again, at the end of the episode and we’re about to hear this week’s Listener Story. These are 5-10 minute stories, sent in by a listener – just like you! We end every episode this way, so if you have something interesting, just record it on your phone and email it to me.

 

This week’s story is about a mishap while on vacation. Stay safe, and I’ll see you back here in a week, with our next Flashback episode. See you then.

 

(Listener story)

 

Hi Scott. First, I want to tell you how much I enjoy your podcast. Thank you for all your hard work and putting all of these episodes together. My name is Brenda, and I’d like to share a listener’s story that happened to me many years ago. This was in the late 1980s and became a bit of a family story heirloom.

 

My husband and I decided to take our kids to Disneyland for summer vacation prior to school starting. We drove from Washington State to the Bay Area in California where my sister and her husband were living. They had just purchased a brand new travel trailer and, along with their daughter and her two small children, joined us on our trip down to Disneyland. My sister and her family were in a large van pulling the trailer and my family and I were in a separate vehicle following behind.

 

Several miles down the freeway from their house, my brother-in-law pulled over on the side of the road. Not knowing what was going on, I got out of our car to find out what was happening. My brother-in-law said my sister couldn’t find her purse and thought she may have left it in the trailer. I followed him inside, and while he was looking around the front part, I went to the back of the trailer to the bedroom and looked in cupboards and closets for the purse. All of a sudden, I heard the trailer door shut and the lock turn with a click. Before I could get to the trailer door or call out, the trailer started to move and pulled out onto the freeway.

 

I ran to the back of the trailer to the back window to signal to my husband that I was a trapped passenger in a moving trailer but, to my dismay, the back window had an outside cover pulled up for travel. This was, of course, all well before cell phones, so I was literally trapped with no way to communicate with anybody. It was very warm in the trailer, in the middle of California, in August. I was feeling helpless. I started to panic a little, trying to calm myself down. I couldn’t help but see the humor in the situation and decided the only thing I could do was ride it out till the next stop.

 

Not too many miles down the road, I felt the trailer start to slow down and pull over again. I was laughing hysterically as I met my brother-in-law at the trailer door, mostly from relief, but also just from the ridiculous situation. Come to find out, my family thought I had decided to ride in the van with my sister’s family without informing them, but then decided that would have been a rude and out-of-character thing for me to do, so finally pulled up alongside their van signaling, “Where’s Brenda?”

 

My sweet brother-in-law, after finding the purse, somehow had figured I had slipped out of the trailer ahead of him and had gone back to my car. He finally put two and two together and pulled over right away. Everyone was relieved that I came out laughing instead of spitting mad or upset, and we all chuckle every time we retell the story. I’m sure we all had a great time at Disneyland that year, but this story kind of overshadows it in my mind. Thanks for listening.