UPPER EAST SIDE — A 25-year-old nail salon worker running an errand on the Upper East Side Tuesday was stabbed in the stomach by a knife-wielding homeless man who tried to snatch her bag, sources said.
Sabatha Tirado, an Astoria resident who works at the European Wax Center on 82nd Street and First Avenue, was walking with a friend at East 86th Street near Second Avenue at 10:30 a.m. when a man lunged for her black leather pocketbook, sources said.
Tirado, who had just visited a nearby bank, hung onto her bag long enough for the man to plunge an 8-inch kitchen knife into her stomach, police sources said.
“He tries to take her bag and she resists,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Tuesday. “He stabs her. He may also have sprayed her with some sort of substance.”
As Tirado slumped to the ground, breathing heavily and bleeding through her shirt, the attacker fled the scene without the pocketbook, police and witnesses said.
"Call my father," Tirado shouted after being stabbed, witnesses said.
Tirado's friend raced into the International News and Magazines Inc. and deli and begged for help.
"She came in here and said someone stabbed her friend," said worker Mo Desia, 53, who has been at the store for 15 years, "and she asked for tissue and water."
Armed with a 2-liter bottle of water, a cloth and paper towels, Desia and the friend ran to Tirado to try and stop the bleeding. The friend began to break down as Desia applied pressure to the victim's stomach to stanch the flow of blood.
"I went out there to help her," Desia said, adding that Tirado was lying on the ground bleeding and breathing heavily.
Tirado was conscious when authorities arrived and was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital in stable condition, officials said.
Her injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.
A man was taken into custody Tuesday night in connection with the stabbing. He had not yet been charged, police said.
Witnesses said the attacker fled the scene.
"He was running mad fast like he stole something," said witness Jose Valdes, 27, who works at a fruit stand on East 85th Street and Second Avenue. "And I looked down and he was holding a kitchen knife wrapped in a plastic bag."
Jai Jaiteh, 27, who works nearby, was walking south on Second Avenue when he heard a worker at Viand diner, at East 86th Street and Second Avenue, shout, "Stop him!"
Jaiteh turned and saw the worker running after another man, and he quickly joined the chase down Second Avenue and caught up to the attacker near East 85th Street.
"I grabbed him from behind, by the collar," Jaiteh said. "He twisted and hit the fence. Then he got away."
Jaiteh figured the man had tried to slip out of Viand without paying his bill — it was only afterward that witnesses told him about the stabbing.
"If I knew, I would have followed," Jaiteh said. "I would have got him."
Jaiteh didn't see a knife, but police said it had a white handle and was wrapped in plastic.
Police initially described the attacker as a known vagrant who had prior incidents of threatening locals, but police sources later said that they could not confirm that.
Police sources described the suspect as being in his 40s, standing about 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, with an unshaven beard and an afro. He was last seen wearing a maroon shirt and black backpack.
He had not been apprehended as of late Tuesday afternoon.
Eli Daniel, 54, who has lived at the Gracie Homeless Shelter on First Avenue for two years, said he saw the attacker racing down Second Avenue after the stabbing.
"He was running toward me with a knife," Daniel said. "It scared me."
Daniel and other witnesses said the attacker turned the corner at East 85th Street and ran toward the East River.
Daniel said he had never seen the man before.
Tirado, who said on Facebook that she is from The Bronx and attended Stony Brook University, has worked at the European Wax Center for about a year, co-workers said.
Friends and co-workers said Tirado's morning started like any other before her life was turned upside down.
"She was here then went to do an errand," said Ann Falzone, the regional manager at the salon.
"She is a great worker," Falzone added. "I am concerned about her safety and well being."
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) entering TIP577.