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The New Jersey Record
June 10, 1994
Author: By NEAL THOMPSON, RITA MALLEY, and MARAH SHUMAN, Staff Writers: The Record
Slowly and calmly, a gunman approached four men playing a poolside card game at a Saddle Brook hotel Thursday afternoon and opened fire, sending panicked bystanders diving into the pool and behind lounge chairs and tables to shield themselves from the hail of bullets.
When it was over, six people had been injured, including two bystanders apparently hit by bullet fragments. Two of the card players suffered serious injuries.
Witnesses and police said the gunman described by authorities as a paranoid schizophrenic apparently thought the card players had been harassing his 12-year-old daughter. And when he stopped shooting, a few terrified bystanders said they heard him mutter, “I hate everybody.”
Shortly after the shooting stopped at roughly 2:30 p.m. police arrested Henry Levy, 47, a 10-year Ridgewood resident who had been living since May 26 at the Howard Johnson Plaza-Hotel, which is at Route 80 and the Garden State Parkway.
Police said Levy had been unemployed since 1984, last worked as an insurance salesman, and has a history of mental disability.
“He believed people were harassing his daughter,” Bergen County Prosecutor John J. Fahy said. “But there’s no indication his daughter had any problem with these guys.”
Levy’s daughter had been sitting near the pool, which is part of a health spa called The Spa in the hotel complex, along with about 100 hotel guests and spa members sprawled on towels and chaise lounges.
Three of the card players the gunman’s apparent targets were shot; the fourth escaped unharmed. At least two bystanders were injured by stray bullets or bullet fragments, and another bystander was treated at a nearby hospital for cuts suffered when he fell while trying to flee the gunfire.
The four apparent targets are black, but Fahy said race apparently was not a factor. Levy is white.
After emptying his handgun a Ruger P-89 of its 13 bullets, Levy sat calmly in a lounge chair for a few minutes before returning to his second-floor room at the hotel, where his wife called a local counseling help line, police said. The weapon is the same type used by Colin Ferguson in the Long Island Railroad shootings in December.
It was in Room 219, moments after the shootings, that police found and arrested Levy, who police said has no criminal history. Levy had returned to North Jersey recently after living in Phoenix, Ariz., for three months with his wife and two children, ages 12 and 17, police said. The family was planning to move to Park Ridge, police said.
Levy, who was taking the prescription antidepressant drug Prozac and another antidepressant drug, Trilafon, was charged with four counts of attempted murder and one count of illegal possession of a weapon, Fahy said.
Fahy said the weapon had been purchased in Arizona, but he did not know whether Arizona screens gun purchasers for psychiatric histories, as New Jersey does.
If convicted on all charges, Levy faces 100 years in prison.
After police arrested him, Levy experienced chest pains and was taken to Hackensack Medical Center. Doctors determined he was not having a heart attack, as police initially had feared. It was expected that Levy would be taken to Bergen Pines County Hospital in Paramus for psychiatric evaluation, Fahy said.
“He thinks people are out to get him,” said Dr. John LoCurto, director of the trauma unit at Hackensack Medical Center, who evaluated Levy.
LoCurto said that if Levy had failed to take his medication, that could have caused a paranoid episode.
Fahy said police had not yet determined Levy’s motive.
The most seriously injured victim is James McGuire, 21, of Paterson, who was shot twice in the right forearm, once in the right side, and had multiple bullet fragments removed from his body. He was in critical condition at Hackensack Medical Center with possible paralysis in his legs.
Also seriously injured was Kenneth Smith, 23, of Hackensack, who was shot once in the groin and was in stable condition at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson. A third member of the card-playing group, John James, 22, of Paterson, was shot once in the thigh and was in fair condition Thursday night at Hackensack Medical Center.
Jesse McGuire, 23, of Paterson also was sitting at the card table, but ran from the scene and escaped injury, Fahy said.
One bystander, Bernard Winarski, 72, of Clifton, was cut on his arms and legs when he tried to run from the gunshots. He was treated at Hackensack Medical Center and released. Another bystander, Anthony Genuardi, 62, also of Clifton, was treated at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair for a graze bullet wound to his leg and released. At least one other bystander, who apparently was cut by flying bullet fragments, was treated at the scene for minor cuts and scrapes, police said.
Fahy said the McGuires, Smith, and James had rented a room at the hotel so that they could use the pool for the day.
Outside Hackensack Medical Center, three men who said they were friends of the victims waited for word of their condition. The men would not give their names, but said they had traveled from Tennessee to visit John James and James McGuire. When they arrived at the hotel, they learned that their friends had been shot, they said.
An hour after the incident, eyewitnesses still barefoot and in bathing suits recounted the harrowing few minutes that had them hugging the poolside concrete or leaping over fences as bullets whizzed above their heads.
“We jumped under the table where we were playing cards. We were scared,” said Dorothy Vandalina. “We all said our prayers, our Hail Marys, and couldn’t believe what was happening. Then we saw the blood.”
Witnesses said the gunman walked from an indoor pool area to the outdoor pool at The Spa. With the gun at his side, he walked toward the
four men playing cards and lifted the gun to begin firing, hitting three of the men and sending one of them scurrying for cover, witnesses said.
“I was asleep, no more than 10 feet away, and then the shots began blending into my dreams,” said Alvin Maurer of Teaneck, standing impatiently in his swimming trunks behind a police line. “I woke up and foolishly jumped behind my lounge chair. But then, apparently, he ran out of bullets.”
After spraying more than a dozen shots and emptying his gun, Levy dropped the weapon back to his side, walked inside, and sat down, witnesses said. After a few minutes, he rose and went to the room on the second floor that he shared with his wife, Susan, and their children, and then his wife dialed 262-HELP, a counseling line sponsored by Bergen County, Fahy said.
An operator on the help line, on advice from police, told Levy’s wife to bring down the gun and hand it over to police, Fahy said. She did, and police then went upstairs and arrested Levy, who was screaming, “They’re trying to get my family,” Fahy said.
Staff Writers Jim Consoli and Elaine D’Aurizio contributed to this article.
Record Number: 1653155
Copyright 1994 Bergen Record Corp.