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A Grim Turn

Party Social Circles Collide on the Dance Floor. Then, a Deadly Brawl

NEW YORK--Someone cut the music, and then from the kitchen came the crash of a utensil drawer being yanked out of a wooden cabinet. Vernon Hubbard stepped over tiles strewed with spatulas, spoons, purple plates and an unopened liter of soda. His eyelids were droopy, witnesses said, and in each hand he carried a steak knife.

“Nobody’s getting out of here alive,” he said from the apartment doorway, according to a witness. Others remembered a more lurid phrase: People, he warned, would be “leaving out in body bags.”

Some partygoers sat stone-still, wedged together on a few living room couches. Others untangled themselves from a brawl that had grown out of a dance in the middle of the room. A woman shouted, “All I want to do is go home.”

In a purple-and-white-striped polyester shirt and Nikes, with brandy and beer blurring his thinking, Mr. Hubbard seemed barely able to stand, let alone hold anyone hostage.

Around 30 people were marooned inside Apartment 15E at 645 Westchester Avenue, a public housing high-rise around East 152nd Street in the South Bronx. Only one elevator was working. Some neighbors, to blunt the weekend noise, had taken sleeping pills and wedged mats in their

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