(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Author Salman Rushdie undergoes surgery at UPMC Hamot.
He was rushed to Erie after being stabbed while on stage at the Chautauqua Institution Friday morning. Now, a suspect is in custody.
Chaos on the stage at the Chautauqua Amphitheater. A man rushed author Salman Rushdie as he was being introduced, stabbing him in the neck and the abdomen.
The audience waiting to hear Rushdie’s lecture was left in shock.
“It looked like he was punching him. I heard later that other people saw he had a knife, and we talked to another man who had binoculars. He saw blood had been sprayed on the wall or something like that. It was all over very fast,” said Patrick Fogarty, witness.
New York State Police said Rushdie received medical attention from a doctor and EMS almost immediately. He was airlifted to the closest trauma center, UPMC Hamot in Erie.
The alleged suspect was taken into custody and identified as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey.
“We had met earlier in the year with the institution, and there were some high profile events that they requested a law enforcement presence be there. Luckily, we were,” said Major Eugene Staniszewski, New York State Police.
Police said they have no motive for the attack yet, but Rushdie has been the subject of death threats since the 1980s. After his book satanic verses was published, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini called for Rushdie’s death.
He spent years in hiding. Witnesses questioned the level of protection.
“They didn’t have enough proper security. There pretty much wasn’t any security. As someone as controversial as Salmon Rushdie, they really needed to beef it up. The institution was on lockdown so we had to wait around until just now to get out,” said Mary and Vince Fogarty, witnesses.
“I’ve been worried about security. He had so many threats on him so I was worried about it and I was watching and then someone just ran up on stage,” said John Stein, witness.
“We assess for every event what we think the appropriate security level is. This one we thought was important, which is why we had a state trooper and sheriff presence there,” said Michael Hill, president of the Chautauqua Institution.
They said there was no indication of previous threats.
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A second victim who was on stage with Rushdie suffered a cut to his face. He was treated at UPMC Hamot and released.