By Kim Chakanetsa and Lillian Rizzo
On Sunday, two days after Maksim Gelman fatally stabbed three people in Sheepshead Bay, the neighborhood was quiet. The sole physical evidence of the events that happened the previous day was at the local news stand in Sheepshead Bay. Tagged as “Brooklyn’s madman” by New York City tabloids, Gelman’s face was splashed across the front pages on display, as well as the on the Facebook pages of residents that lived in the area surrounding his rampage.
On East 27th, an unremarkable street lined with bare trees and red brick apartments, the blinds were down at number 2830. The building was like any of the others with small balconies crammed with kids toys and barbeque grills. Except of course that 2830 was cordoned off with yellow tape sealing shut the precise details of the events leading up to the morning of February 11.
Here is what we know. Following an argument over use of the family Lexus, Gelman fatally stabbed his stepfather, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, 54. He then went on to the home of his ex-girlfriend, Yelena Bulchenko, 20 at 2466 East 24th Street, where he fatally stabbed both her and her mother, Anna Bulchenko, 56. The brazen nature of his rampage which involved two carjacking incidents led one person, on a local news blog to say, “Its like he is playing Grand Theft Auto.” Only he wasn’t.
On Facebook, local kids implored each other to stay safe. They compared the killings to those by the 1970’s serial killer David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam. By the time police caught up with Gelman in a northbound number 3 train on Saturday morning, he had fatally stabbed three people, stabbed and injured another four, and had been involved in a hit-and-run accident that claimed another life.
In Sheepshead Bay, on the quiet street bookended by a highway, bundled up passersby stopped and speculated. “He jumped out of the car, he was smart,” said one woman to her three companions in reference to a victim of Gelman’s carjacking. Two boys with a skateboard who had been debating the merits of the weather in Florida discussed how to get past the cordon to their house on the other side.
A woman with auburn hair briefly came out from the neighboring apartment. She smoked her cigarette quickly and went back indoors. Others walked past and paused to survey the scene in silence. But most of those walking down Emmons Avenue did not turn to look but continued on down quietly past the Applebees with its hearts pasted on the window advertising its Valentine’s day sangria specials.
But in the days that followed the incident, Sheepshead Bay’s streets remained silent while an angry chorus erupted on Facebook. Friends of Bulchenko posted statuses in memorial, along with creating groups such as “Maksim Gelman Deserves the Death Penalty” and “R.I.P. Yelena Bulchenko and her mother.”
The emotional responses range from sympathy to anger, spurring the organization of a rally on the steps of City Hall on Friday, February 18. One person sympathizing with Gelman on the wall of the rally started an argument on the page. The rally was put together, according to the Facebook event, to reinstate the death penalty in New York due primarily due to Gelman, who did not attend his arraignment on Monday.