NEW YORK – A bouncer was stabbed to death early Sunday morning in a melee at an New York nightclub after he asked a patron to put out his cigarette — and his relatives blamed the city's tough new no-smoking law.
"I'm very angry. My brother is a victim of this stupid [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg law," said Anthony Blake, whose brother Dana Blake was killed at Guernica on Avenue B in Manhattan's East Village.
"The common person always plays the victim of these political laws, and my brother was their first casualty," said Anthony, a Queens, N.Y., minister.
"I want to know what these guys were thinking when they committed this crime. I want to know if it was worth one person's life for that cigarette."
Cops said Dana Blake, 32, approached two brothers, Johnathan and Ching Chan, in the club's crowded basement lounge at about 2:30 a.m.
At least one of the brothers was smoking, and Blake asked him to put out his cigarette in compliance with the law banning smoking in bars and restaurants. The law, pushed by Mayor Bloomberg, went into effect two weeks ago.
The men exchanged angry words over the blaring music, and Blake decided to toss out Johnathan Chan, said police spokesman Michael O'Looney.
The 6-foot-5, 350-pound Blake grabbed Johnathan by the neck and dragged him toward the exit, but Chan fought back, O'Looney said. His brother Ching joined the scuffle, as did another man and a woman, who jumped onto Blake's back, he said.
Someone plunged a knife into Blake's stomach, and the fighting spilled onto the street, witnesses said.
Police and several others chased the Chans around the corner onto East Third Street and grabbed the brothers.
Blake was taken to Beth Israel Hospital, where he died at 1:30 p.m.
Johnathan Chan, 29, and Ching Chan, 31, were charged with assault, criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest.
Police were still trying to determine who stabbed Blake.
"The smoking issue was the initial contact, but the homicide seems to be over the ejection from the club," O'Looney said.
But Travis Keyes, the owner of B3, a bar next door, didn't hesitate to blame the new law, which has been billed as a way to safeguard the health of pub employees.
"It all started over a cigarette," said Keyes, who helped chase down the Chans. "It's so ironic: Something that's supposed to save lives has already taken a life."
Co-workers at the bar said Blake, 32, was called "Shazam."
"He was one of the most loveable souls ... a gentle giant," said cashier Shelly Sabel.
Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler said the mayor was pleased the police had quickly arrested the suspects, and "his thoughts are with the family of the victim."