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Man Who Helped Catch Suspect In Deadly Morningside Heights Stabbing Recalls 'Unbelievable' Encounter With Alleged Killer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The man who helped police catch the alleged killer of a Columbia University student is now describing his own terrifying encounter with the suspect.

CBS2's Nick Caloway spoke with Harlem resident Greg Johnson by phone about the close call.

Johnson was walking in Central Park with his girlfriend and dog late Thursday night when the unthinkable happened.

"We heard someone running up behind us. As I turned around, this guy just swung some kind of knife at me," Johnson said. "And I kind of jumped back to avoid it."

He said his attacker didn't say anything, just kept trying to stab him.

"Then he just kept swinging at me with the knife as I kind of just kept hopping back," he said.

Somehow, Johnson and his girlfriend escaped injury. They ran out of the park toward 110th Street and Central Park West Where he flagged down some police officers.

"And I told them some guy just tried to stab me in the park. They told me to hop in, so I jumped in the back of the police cruiser," Johnson said.

They drove into the park, and Johnson spotted his attacker.

Police arrested 25-year-old Vincent Pinkney, of Washington Heights.

It was later that Johnson learned that police believe Pinkney stabbed two other men earlier Thursday night.

Thirty-year-old Davide Giri, a Columbia University graduate student from Italy, was killed after he was stabbed in the stomach near Morningside Park. A short time later, an Italian tourist was also stabbed near the same park. He survived.

"That was even more shocking and ... kind of added to the sense of just unbelievableness to what had happened," Johnson said.

Cops say the alleged attacker is a gang member who has been arrested 16 times and was out on parole after serving four years in prison for gang assault.

Around Morningside Park, the recent violence has neighbors on edge.

"It doesn't really feel comfortable and safe anymore if this keeps happening," Morningside Heights resident Eileen Hsu said.

The NYPD has had a heavy police presence in the area ever since those stabbings took place. Columbia University has also added more safety patrols near campus and around Morningside Park.

Police say Pinkney is charged with murder, attempted murder and other counts.

CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report, which first appeared on Dec. 4.

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