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Suspect Denied Bail in Attack on 15 Hasidim

March 04, 1994|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — A 28-year-old Lebanese cabdriver was ordered held without bail Thursday after being arraigned on 15 counts of attempted murder in an assault on a van packed with Hasidic students on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Two students were gravely wounded in the attack Tuesday and one was declared brain-dead by doctors in a Manhattan hospital. Two others in the van received lesser wounds.

Rashad Baz, a Beirut native who entered the United States on a student visa in 1984, was silent during the arraignment. But law enforcement sources said he told detectives that the bloody incident stemmed from a traffic argument and that students in the van opened fire on him first.

The sources said there were witnesses to rebut Baz's version of events. They said that the attack on the van was unprovoked and that no traffic incident preceded the shooting. Police said Baz fired at the vehicle with two guns, one of them an automatic weapon.

"The district attorney in a rapid attempt to bring this case to a . . . close may have arrested the wrong individual," the defendant's lawyer, S. Michael Musa-Obregon, charged.

But prosecutors told Criminal Court Judge Albert D. Koch that Baz was identified by witnesses in two lineups and that he had given statements during questioning. Koch scheduled a hearing in the case for Tuesday.

Two other suspects, Jordanians living in Brooklyn, were held in lieu of $20,000 bail on charges of weapons possession and hindering the prosecution of a crime. Investigators believe that they helped Baz hide the car and the guns used in the shooting.

Several callers gave tips that allowed detectives to make arrests in the case within 30 hours. A driver who was on the Brooklyn Bridge at the time of the incident used a cellular phone to describe what had just happened and how the gunman had just shot a window out of his own car. Others on the bridge furnished further descriptions of the gunman's auto--a blue Chevrolet.

Later, a caller reported seeing the car at a Brooklyn auto repair shop and further callers furnished license plate information. Detectives staked out the body shop, the private cab service where Baz worked and his home.

The motive for the attack still was under investigation.

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