Vasken Bayanderian had no idea what would await him when he left the French Consulate Thursday afternoon.
"I know I could have been dead."
Bayanderian was grabbed and held hostage by a knife-wielding panhandler, now known as Jacob Stolarz, near State and Randoph streets.
"I didn't know at the time that he was holding a knife to my throat. Then, shortly after that, I find myself laying in the street," Bayanderian remembered. "I remember saying loud, 'Am I shot?' to myself, but I wasn't. I was close to die. And yet I am alive. "
Stolarz, 45, was shot and killed by police in the midday melee and is being remembered as a troubled man.
Stolarz was well acquainted with the cops.
He was arrested in 2003 for assault, but he failed to show up for his court date. In 2007 he was picked up again and he pleaded guilty to the previous assault charge and served two days in jail. Stolarz was also arrested in 1995 but charges were dropped in the misdemeanor case.
On Thursday, he got a death sentence for his actions.
"He was trying to murder an innocent elderly gentleman," Police Superintendent Jody Weis said. "With that escalation of force, our officers were forced to engage him, and we used deadly force."
The incident played out like a scene from an action movie, with police cars, ATVs and bicycles descending on the scene and passersby ducking for cover as shots rang out.
"When the shots started coming up, I ducked behind the bus that was on the corner," witness Kevin Shields told the Trib. "When things looked like they were clear, I came out."
It began when Police were summoned to Wabash and Randolph streets to deal with a man who was brandishing a knife, Weis said. Cops followed the man west on Randolph trying to talk him into dropping the weapon.
The officers used pepper spray on the Stolarz but it failed to deter him.
Officers continued to pursue him onto State Street and that’s when he grabbed an 80-year-old man. After several more shouts to drop the knife, police opened fire, killing Stolarz.
An officer was also injured in the scuffle. When cops started shooting one officer accidently shot his another responding officer, but the bullet did not penetrate his vest.
Weis said that officer is doing fine, but will probably be bruised for a while.