March 23, 2016 By Michael Florio
An apparently isolated slashing in early March was actually the precursor to a bloody, day-long rampage through Astoria.
James Dillon, 23, who is accused of attacking several people with a knife – one fatally – and lighting another on fire on March 6, allegedly led up to this violent spree with a slashing two days prior.
According to Captain Peter Fortune, commanding officer of the 114 Precinct, Dillon approached a 26-year-old man on 28th Street at 10:50 p.m. that night and slashed him on the chin.
“At that time we assumed it was an isolated incident,” Fortune said. “It was a male slashed while smoking a cigarette on his work break.”
However, two days later, Dillon struck again with his knife as well as a homemade Molotov cocktail, this time fatally.
At the 114 Precinct’s community meeting last night, Fortune detailed the events of the rampage and how police were able to track Dillon down.
The incidents began at 11:20 a.m. on March 6, with the slashing of a 39-year-old woman on 36th St. She was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in stable condition.
Police were able to quickly identify Dillon, as the victim knew him. The two grew up across the street from one another, according to Fortune.
“If we weren’t able to identify him, from this point on we would basically have been chasing a shadow,” Fortune said. “We wouldn’t have been able to apprehend him and stop his rampage.”
The violence carried over into Jackson Heights, where a 43-year-old man was slashed on Roosevelt Avenue at 1:30 p.m. The victim held the door of an apartment building open for Dillon, who then slashed him from behind, according to the NYPD.
His violence turned fatal when he entered Astoria Liquors & Wines on Astoria Boulevard and stabbed owner George Patouhas in the neck. Patouhas was removed to Mt. Sinai Hospital where he later died.
Dillon also attacked a 61-year-old homeless man who frequents the liquor store, Fortune said. He splashed him with a flammable chemical and set the man on fire.
At this point the Precinct brought in the Strategic Response Group and the Critical Response Command for assistance.
By 5 p.m., Dillon had allegedly attempted to break into a woman’s apartment on 42nd Street between 30th and 31st Avenues.
“He was unsuccessful, but we knew immediately who it was because he fit the same description,” Fortune said.
He then tried to break into an FDNY vehicle while walking along 35th Street by 28th Avenue at 5:31 p.m., according to Fortune.
“This is right around the corner from the 114 Precinct,” he said. “We had a small army looking for him.”
“We see him and give chase and he jumped over a fence into his backyard,” Fortune added.
Two officers from SRG followed Dillon into the backyard, where he was on the patio armed with a 12-pack of Corona Lite bottles, all of which contained acetone.
“They were homemade Molotov cocktails,” Fortune said.
Dillon took one of the bottles and attempted to light it on fire and was unsuccessful. He then threw the chemical in the faces of the officers, Fortune said. The officers, who were “fearing for their life,” shot Dillon seven times.
Dillon suffered a leg injury and was apprehended and transported to Elmhurst Hospital, where he currently remains.
He is facing upwards of 10 charges, including murder, attempted murder, arson, burglary and numerous counts of felony assaults, according to Fortune.
Dillon is a diagnosed schizophrenic, who “apparently was off his medication for quite sometime,” according to Fortune.
“He came from a hardworking, normal family,” Fortune said.
Fortune attended Patouhas’ wake, earlier this month.
“It was just terrible, trying to talk to his wife and family,” Fortune said last night. “Everyone in the neighborhood adored him and knew who he was. Everyone was always welcomed in his store.”
“It was just a tragedy,” he added. “Hopefully we put this behind us and the family, as well as the community, heals.”