PINOY CHARGED IN NEW YORK CLUB STABBING

New York, April 20, 2003 (TODAY) --  The killing was strange from the 
start, and has gotten only stranger. A bouncer stabbed to death, some said, 
because of the city's new ban on smoking in bars. A missing weapon. Three 
siblings arrested, then released, then revealed to be the children of a 
Chinatown gangster.

And on Friday, a new suspect, whom the police described as a suicidal young 
Filipino American practiced in a vicious martial art from his homeland in 
which beginners learn lethal knife thrusts.

The suspect, Isaias P. Umali II, was arraigned on Friday on charges of 
killing the bouncer, Dana Blake, with a single stab wound on Saturday night 
at a downtown nightclub after a fight broke out over a burning cigarette.

Umali tried to commit suicide on Monday after learning that the bouncer, 
Dana Blake, had died, said George Brown, the chief of detectives.

The police made the arrest after learning that Umali had talked about the 
stabbing while in the hospital, Brown said. In what was apparently intended 
as a suicide note, Umali made reference to his involvement in the crime, 
investigators said. The note was destroyed -- it was not clear how -- but 
someone who read it described it to the police, they said.

The police announced the arrest of Umali just two hours after eight brawny 
men struggled to carry Blake's casket up the stairs of the Church of God in 
Christ in South Ozone Park, Queens, for his funeral.

The arrest brought some satisfaction to investigators caught in a 
frustrating whodunit, with an international spotlight, no murder weapon, no 
witnesses to the stabbing itself and multiple sets of blood-soaked clothing.

Umali left Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens on Friday for his arraignment 
on charges of second-degree murder, appearing in state Supreme Court in 
Manhattan with his neck and wrists bandaged. He was ordered held without 
bail, on suicide watch.

Umali, 31, was among a group of friends who gathered Saturday night to 
celebrate a birthday in the basement of Guernica, a sleek Lower East Side 
lounge, Brown said.
After one of the friends, Jonathan Chan, 29, lighted a cigarette and passed 
it to a friend, a fight ensued. Investigators have said that when Blake, 
31, asked that the cigarette be put out, a rude response prompted him to 
eject Chan from the club.

Chan's lawyer has said that his client was polite but that the bouncer 
grabbed him around the neck anyway.

Either way, a struggle ensued that involved Chan; his brother Ching; his 
sister, Alice; and other people, and left Blake on the floor, bleeding to 
death.

The police initially arrested the Chan siblings, but released them early 
Tuesday morning after the Manhattan district attorney declined to press 
charges. The police said the investigation was continuing and charges may 
still be brought against the Chans.

The siblings -- a stockbroker, a medical student and a bookkeeper -- are 
the children of a former Chinatown gang leader who is serving a murder and 
racketeering sentence in federal prison.

During the fight, Umali "came to the assistance of the Chans," Brown said.

He said Umali left the club immediately after the stabbing and walked 
downtown to a subway station, discarding the knife as he walked. It has not 
been recovered.

Umali traveled to the Upper East Side, to the home of friends who, along 
with the Chan brothers, an investigator said later, studied kali together 
at a martial- arts studio called the Fighthouse on West 27th Street.

Kali, also called escrima or arnis, is a martial art without a mystical 
side, according to its teachers. It was developed over hundreds of years in 
the Philippines, where it sometimes was forbidden and had to be practiced 
in secret. It was designed, teachers said, to help the underdog against a 
more powerful enemy.

"It's based on this principle: Do unto others before they do unto you," 
said Frank Ortega, a kali guro, or teacher, in Queens. "It's an aggressive 
art. You don't learn kali to show off or break watermelons, you learn kali 
to survive. It is more of a street art."

Umali spent the remainder of the night with his friends, and on Sunday went 
home to his house on 171st Street in Jamaica wearing fresh clothes they had 
provided, Brown said. He lives there with his parents and younger sister, 
people who know the family said.

On Monday morning he tried to slash his neck and wrists, the police said. 
"We believe he was distraught over learning of the death of Blake," Brown 
said.

But unlike Blake's wound, which severed his femoral artery, Umali's wounds 
were not fatal. He was carried out of his house to an ambulance with his 
mother and girlfriend looking on, said a neighbor, Tom Bagasan, 57.

Umali attended a Roman Catholic high school and completed some college, and 
has worked as a computer network administrator, said his lawyer, David 
Krauss. "He's never had contact with the criminal justice system before," 
Krauss said.

The police said Umali was currently unemployed. Friends and neighbors 
described him as a quiet man who liked to play with paintball guns.

His parents, who friends said were both retired accountants, are well known 
among Filipino-Americans. Umali's father, Isaias Umali Jr. is a charter 
member and past president of Bayanihan, a prominent Filipino community 
organization. The senior Umali and his wife paused on their driveway last 
night to speak to a reporter about their son, saying they were grateful 
that the suicide attempt had been unsuccessful.

"I have a great son, he's a great guy," he said. "He's very helpful and 
respectful to elders. We put the burden of the case in God's hands." (TODAY 
reprint of a New York Times article)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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