A man who is accused of fatally shooting a flight attendant at LaGuardia Airport earlier this week described the deadly confrontation in the court room on Wednesday. Arturo Luis Zarate, who allegedly shot 51-year-old Ahman Rashid Arbery while Arbery was sitting in a wheelchair, said the shooting was “a life or death,” according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Standing in court in a black and silver plaid button-down shirt and sandals, Zarate said he was “not an animal,” “not a monster,” and that he was a “man who works hard every day for the American people.”
Prosecutors said that at about 2:40 p.m. on Tuesday, Zarate got into an argument with Rashid Arbery, whose family owns an Upper West Side caterer called Jenab Market. The fight escalated into a physical fight, and Zarate allegedly grabbed the wheelchair from Rashid Arbery and started beating him.
Rashid Arbery’s family members fled from the booth and jumped on the defendant, prosecutors said. When the defendant fell to the ground, Rashid Arbery and his two brothers went back to their booth, prosecutors said. As Arbery was trying to hold back his brothers, the defendants, who were standing over Arbery, allegedly pulled out a gun and shot him several times, according to authorities. Rashid Arbery died at the scene, and his brothers were taken to a hospital with injuries unrelated to the confrontation.
Zarate was charged with the shooting and several other felonies on Wednesday.
“This was a senseless and brutal shooting,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement. “No one deserves to be shot for standing up for his rights, nor for fleeing the beat-down by members of his own family.”
“Someone who lived on this campus did something very bad yesterday,” said Denise Gay, superintendent of the bayside United Council Hostel, which guests stay in while they work at LaGuardia. “The reality of a moment of madness is something you think happens in movies, not in real life.”