OZONE PARK — Debra Alli was supposed to be celebrating her 21st birthday Tuesday. Instead, she held a memorial service for her boyfriend who was killed over the weekend.
Family and friends of Stephen James, 21, who was fatally stabbed early Sunday after taking Alli out for her birthday, gathered at her house in Ozone Park Tuesday night to mourn him.
"Today is her birthday. No flowers. No cake. Instead, she has to mourn his death," said Alli's 32-year-old sister.
James took Alli to Level Ultra Lounge on Liberty Avenue, where he got into an argument with another man who started swinging his T-shirt in their faces. Both men were thrown out of the club, Alli said, and James was later stabbed in his lower abdomen.
"He was so concerned about getting up early to get her a present," said Alli's sister, who asked that her name not be used.
James and the man continued to fight outside the club, Alli said. They were then separated and a short time later he came back grabbing his stomach.
“He said, ‘Call an ambulance. They stabbed me,’” Alli remembered.
James then flagged down police at the intersection of 123rd Street and Liberty Avenue about 3:50 a.m. He was rushed to Jamaica Hospital, where he died.
James graduated from APEX Technical School in Manhattan and worked as an electrician.
"He had everything going his way. He grew up in a bad neighborhood and he made it out," said his friend, Shawn Starzz, 25.
Starzz added that he hopes James' killer does the right thing and goes to the police.
"He's a coward," he said. "If you have a problem you don't take a life."
Police released video of a person of interest Tuesday.
Other friends remembered James as a kind man.
"He used to walk me home [from school]. He would take the long way just to make sure I got home safe," said Sara Nouhaili, 20, who went to Junior High School with James. "He would make sure everybody was good."
"I hope the person turns himself in," she said. "That was somebody's son."
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).