NEW YORK – NEW YORK (AP) — After stabbing two men to death on a subway train, a criminal justice student insisted to authorities that he was trying to save himself from an abrupt and brutal attack.
Brenddy Garcia was vindicated Friday as a grand jury dismissed all charges against him and prosecutors said "significant evidence of self-defense" had emerged after his arrest. Jailed since early April, the 19-year-old Garcia was expected to be freed later Friday or early Saturday, said his lawyer, Lawrence Fredella.
"Brenddy Garcia never wanted this to happen. He never intended to kill anyone," Fredella said. He said Garcia, who sobbed in court when he was arraigned last month, had been distraught over the incident and the charges and wanted to extend condolences to the slain men's families.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office initially said Garcia overreacted and lashed out with a knife after a group of passengers kicked a bag of beer bottles at him. Darnell Morel and Ricardo Williams, both 24, were killed.
But prosecutors said Friday that witnesses later painted a different picture.
Williams was part of a rowdy group of 10 friends who were riding a No. 2 train as Garcia and four of his friends headed home from a baby shower around 5 a.m., prosecutors said.
Witnesses said Williams' friends hassled a homeless person and a woman on the train, and then Williams booted the bag of bottles at Garcia, prosecutors said.
Garcia tossed the bag back, saying, "Are we good?" But Williams' group became infuriated and attacked Garcia, breaking a beer bottle over his head, pulling his clothes over his face and beating and kicking him, prosecutors said they learned during the investigation.
Fearing for his life, Garcia pulled out and started swinging a knife he had begun carrying after being gravely wounded in a Brooklyn knife attack in 2007, Fredella said.
"There was nowhere to retreat to. He was surrounded," Fredella said.
Morel was stabbed in the liver, Williams in the heart, according to court documents. A third man was wounded.
A message left for a relative of Morel's wasn't immediately returned. No telephone numbers for Garcia's or Williams' families could be found.
Prosecutors said they respected the grand jury's decision. No further charges are expected against anyone involved in the fracas.
The stabbings roused anxieties about safety on the subways that carry more than 5 million people on an average weekday, especially after it emerged that there were no security cameras at the station where authorities said Garcia fled the train.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has said it is working to make all the cameras operable.