A 30-year-old doctoral student at Columbia University was killed on Thursday night, and an Italian tourist was injured, after an “ecstatic” man went on a random stabbing rampage in New York City.
The suspect, an alleged 25-year-old gang member on parole, was nabbed by the NYPD in Central Park after allegedly threatening a third man with a large kitchen knife, police said.
“I write with great sorrow to share the tragic news that Davide Giri, a graduate student at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, was killed in a violent attack near campus on Thursday night,” Columbia President Lee Bollinger wrote in an email to students.
On Giri’s personal website, he described himself as a Ph.D. candidate in computer science who had studied at universities in Italy, China, Chicago, and New York. He had authored several journal articles, and given speeches and tutorials around the world.
His résumé mentions a love of classical piano and soccer, and says he volunteered leading summer camps for many years. Father Franco Gallo, parish priest in Giri’s northern Italian home town of Alba—famous for truffles—said Giri was well known in the community for the volunteer work he did with the church. “He was a very devout young man,” he told The Daily Beast, calling the murder a “senseless tragedy.”
In a statement, Alba Mayor Carlo Bo said the entire town was “shocked.”
“Davide was a brilliant young man, with his whole life in front of him, and what happened is unacceptable,” the statement said. “Davide, now in New York for study reasons, was well known in Alba. His family has always been involved in the world of volunteering and the parish.
“His father Renato is a teacher at the Govone high school, while his mother Giuseppina is the after-school contact person. Davide also leaves his siblings Michele and Caterina. The whole community is close to them in this difficult moment.”
Giri’s girlfriend, Ana Gonzalez, told The New York Post the two had been making big plans for their future together before he was killed.
“We had a long story, and we had plans for a life together soon after the end of his PhD in the beginning of next year,” she said, calling him a “kind and loving person.”
Police said they first received a call just before 11 p.m. about a man who was randomly stabbed in the stomach inside Morningside Park, in New York’s Harlem neighborhood. Giri, who reportedly lived just a couple of blocks from the park, was rushed to a hospital but did not survive.
About 10 minutes later, police received another call about a 27-year-old man being stabbed in the torso in the same park. The victim, identified by the New York Daily News as Italian tourist Robert Malastina, was rushed to the hospital and was in stable condition Friday.
A Columbia student who witnessed that attack recalled seeing the suspect run up behind Malastina and start stabbing him in the back and chest, as Malastina cried out, “Why? Why? Help me!”
The suspect “was ecstatic” as he repeatedly plunged the knife into his unsuspecting victim, the witness told the Daily News.
The third victim, a 29-year-old man, was walking with his girlfriend near Central Park when the suspect tried to stab him, but he reportedly fled after getting into a verbal fight with the man.
As cops were searching the area, they came across a 25-year-old man fitting the suspect’s description and took him into custody.
Police sources told local outlets that the man is a suspected member of the EVK “Everybody Killas” gang who had been out on parole after a 2013 gang-related assault.
A motive for the frenzied rampage remains unclear.
“This news is both unspeakably sad and deeply shocking, as it took place only steps from our campus,” Bollinger said in his email to students.
Almost two years ago to the day, 18-year-old Barnard College student Tessa Majors was fatally stabbed in Morningside Park by a group of teens who tried to steal her phone.