NEW YORK — Annie Hubbard was three sips into a glass of wine when her night out turned into a nightmare.
Gunshots rang out at the door of the fashionable Manhattan wine bar where the waitress and aspiring actress was drinking with friends. Seconds later, a ranting man armed with three guns, a samurai sword and a spray bottle of kerosene herded patrons to the back of the East Village establishment.
As the black gunman vowed revenge on white people for thousands of years of suffering and threatened to send his kerosene-soaked hostages out in body bags, Hubbard and another waitress tackled him to the ground, witnesses told police.
“There are days that you act in ways that you learn things about yourself,” Hubbard said Monday from a hospital bed, where she was in fair condition from a bullet that broke her leg as she struggled with the gunman, identified by police as Steven Johnson.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday that the women’s actions may have saved many lives. He called the gunman “a deranged, unstable individual looking, by all indicators, to kill others and himself.”
Hubbard, 34, said she was simply trying to help out Ann Margaret Gidley, a 23-year-old co-worker who first jumped the suspect.
“Ann Margaret made a very tough decision. It was the right decision. He was going to kill people,” Hubbard said as she lay in bed greeting well-wishers. “It was a very easy decision to back up.”
Police said Johnson, 34, threatened to set fire to his hostages with a fireplace lighter before the women acted. Officers heard shots fired during the struggle and stormed the bar; one officer fired, grazing Johnson’s head with a bullet, and the suspect was arrested about 45 minutes into the ordeal.
The rampage began when Johnson approached four white people walking in the East Village at about 2 a.m. Sunday and told them, “I have a problem with you,” Kelly said.
Johnson allegedly shot one man in the upper body, chased him to the door of the bar and shot him again. Johnson ordered patrons to the rear of the bar, and a second man was shot in the wrist after he heard shots and peeked in, police said.
When Johnson forced a woman to put plastic handcuffs on other hostages as he sprayed the crowd with kerosene, Hubbard and Gidley pretended to be bound but kept their hands free, allowing them to jump Johnson later in the standoff, Hubbard said.
Richard Hollocou, the women’s manager at Gotham Bar and Grill in lower Manhattan, said both were tenacious, resourceful employees.
“They both have a lot of character, strong personalities,” he said. “They’re smart women.”
Johnson was charged with attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon; other charges were pending. He was in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital on Monday.
The first man shot, Jonah Brander, 28, of Fort Lee, N.J., was in fair condition. Shoji Iso, who was shot when he peeked into the bar, was treated and discharged.
Johnson, who has AIDS, apparently wanted to die in the confrontation and left a suicide note for his 10-year-old son at his Brooklyn apartment, police said.
Neighbors told investigators that Johnson became despondent after his wife died in March. He has an arrest record dating to 1985 that includes weapons violations, larceny and drug possession.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office said it didn’t know if Johnson had retained a lawyer. The Legal Aid Society of New York did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.