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Man May Have Slashed Elderly Woman on D Train After Recent Drug Use: Police

By  Aidan Gardiner and Ben Fractenberg | January 27, 2016 8:51am | Updated on January 27, 2016 4:17pm

MANHATTAN — The subway slasher who cut a 71-year-old woman's face on the D train may have been motivated by recent drug use, police said after he was arrested Tuesday.

Damon Knowles, 21, walked over to the woman as the train pulled into the Broadway-Lafayette station about 6:50 a.m. Monday, slashed her left cheek and calmly walked off, sources said.

"We spoke to family members. [They said] he started doing drugs lately," Chief of Detectives Bob Boyce said at a press conference Wednesday. "[He] has changed his entire behavior towards everybody."

While running from the scene, Knowles tripped as he went through the subway turnstile and fell on his face, surveillance video shows.

Knowles was arrested after police were called to reports of him assaulting his ex-girlfriend in Brownsville, on Tuesday, Boyce said. He resisted officers' attempts to detain him before being taken to the 73rd Precinct

He had been harassing his ex for about seven months, according to a criminal complaint, and at one point blocked her car and then confronted her about not returning his phone messages. 

Knowles also told her that he had hired a private investigator to follow her and her new boyfriend, prosecutors alleged. 

After being taken to the precinct Tuesday, Knowles, who has no prior arrests, punched a cellmate in the face, Boyce said. 

The ex-girlfriend's grandmother told responding officers that he dressed like the suspect in the surveillance footage they put out about the slashing, the spokesman said.

He then admitted to detectives he slashed the woman on the subway, according to Boyce. 

Knowles was charged Wednesday morning shortly after midnight with assault with intent to disfigure and cause serious physical injury, police said.

He had not been arraigned as of Wednesday morning, prosecutors said.

His arrest was part of a number of recent attacks in the subway, including two more slashings Tuesday night in a Harlem train station and on a 3 train in Brooklyn.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that while transit crime remains at historic lows there is sometimes a "spike" in incidents. 

"We have from time to time a spike, as these three slashing incidents have been identified," Bratton said. "And then we push down on them and things return to a more normal rate."

Boyce added that he does not believe any of the assaults are related. 

"We have not seen any indication at all of any copycat [attack]."