DREAD: THE UNSOLVED Explores the Case of Henryk Siwiak–The Only Recorded Homicide in NYC on 9/11


Henryk Siwiak. 46 years old. An immigrant from Poland born in Krakow in 1955, Siwiak worked as an inspector for Polish State Railways. He was married, with two children. A perfectly unassuming man. In 2000, he was laid off, and, finding the silver lining in the situation, took it as an opportunity to visit his sister Lucyna, who had been living in Queens.

Related Article: DREAD: THE UNSOLVED Searches for a Killer in New Bedford, Massachusetts

He was not allowed to work in the U.S. He did not have a work visa, but still found steady work. The money he made was sent back to his family in Poland. He hoped that the money he was sending back could help him build a new home for his family when he returned to Poland.

Siwiak had trouble learning English. He attended classes and watched American TV with his sister, but he struggled. Lucyna was concerned. New York was a big place, and an inability to communicate could be dangerous. Misunderstandings could balloon out of control due to the language barrier. She expressed her concern to him. This is what she would later tell The Associated Press:

“We told him the city was a dangerous place. But he didn’t believe it. Perhaps, because he liked living there so much.”

September 11th, 2001: a cool morning like any other. It was about to be shattered by the most violent act of terrorism in American history. Siwiak witnessed a plane fly into one of the towers. He later got the news that the construction site he was working at had been shut down. He would not wait for it to open back up. He needed something fast. He checked Nowy Dziennik, a Polish newspaper, and saw that Pathmark, a supermarket in Brooklyn, was hiring overnight janitorial staff. He went to an employment agency that served the Polish community for help with the application.

Also Read: DREAD: THE UNSOLVED Explores the Chilling Case of “The Isdal Woman”

Siwiak spoke with the owner, and helped comfort her. She was distraught because her husband worked at the World Trade Center and had not contacted her. She would later find out that he died in the attacks. Siwiak could start the new job that night. He called his wife to let her know he was ok. Her warning to him contained a grim hint of what was to come:

“I told him just in case: Don’t leave tonight, because it can be dangerous in New York.”

Siwiak was undeterred. He had never been in the neighborhood where the Pathmark was. He got directions from his landlady and set out. He took the A train to the Utica Avenue station. According to the landlady, that would put him on the same street as Pathmark. She, unfortunately, did not ask him for the address. If she had, she would have known that Pathmark was actually 3 miles south of where he would disembark the subway.

New York was on edge. It had just suffered the worst terror attack in U.S. History. Tensions were the highest they’ve ever been. Siwiak’s landlady told him to stay home. She explained the neighborhood he was going to was dangerous. Siwiak disregarded her and got dressed: Camouflage pants, jacket, and black boots. He set out into a dark and very changed New York.

Related Article: DREAD: THE UNSOLVED Takes on the One and Only D.B. Cooper

Siwiak got off the subway at Fulton Street and began walking. Passerbys recall seeing him. He continued walking and ended up going north, instead of south. Had he gone south, he would have had a long, but potentially uneventful walk to Pathmark. He walked into a part of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood that police had called one of the city’s most dangerous.

Any other night, police would have been on patrol. There would have been eyes looking out for Henryk Siwiak. This night, in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the streets were devoid of police presence.

At approximately 11:40 p.m. People on the street heard a loud argument, punctuated with a gunshot. A woman recalled hearing her doorbell a short time after the shot but was too afraid to answer the door. 911 was called. When they arrived they found Henryk Siwiak, lying face-down in the street. He had been shot in the lung. A bloody trail lead from where he was shot, to the front door of the house, to the sidewalk where he met his end.

The police response was almost non-existent. Normally, detectives and beat cops would be swarming the area, taking witness statements and processing the scene. Siwiak was not afforded this small luxury. New York did not have time or resources for one more life on a date that had taken so many.

Also Read: DREAD: THE UNSOLVED Takes On The Exorcism of Michael Taylor

The investigation’s start was rocky, but it continues to this day. The lead detective on the case has long since retired. The prevailing theory is that Siwiak’s inability to speak English may have lead to his death. If he was approached and mugged, would he understand what the mugger was telling him? Did he think that he was just being approached by a person in need of help? We’ll never know.

Siwiak’s wife and sister have begun to lose hope that they’ll see a resolution in the case.

“I’m afraid this is forever”

“I think the police have many, many cases and maybe they’ll never call me.”

Other people believe that Siwiak was killed due to how he looked. Wearing camouflage, with dark hair, did a New Yorker, shocked from the events of that day, kill someone just because they looked and sounded different than them?

We may never know what transpired on that lonely street in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Over time, details have faded. New York has been in mourning for those it lost ever since that day. Henryk Siwiak is a footnote: The only recorded homicide in New York on September 11th, 2001.

Also Read: DREAD: THE UNSOLVED Dives Into the Lonesome Death of Joyce Vincent

I’ll leave you with a quote from Michael Wilson of The New York Times:

To be the last man killed on September 11th is to be hopelessly anonymous, quietly mourned by a few while, year after year, the rest of the city looks toward Lower Manhattan. No one reads his name into a microphone at a ceremony. No memorial marks the sidewalk where he fell with a bullet in his lung.”

What do you think? Was this a case of mistaken identity? Was it a hate crime? Was it perhaps a botched robbery? Let me know in the comments. I’m also on Instagram and Twitter @TheUnsolved, as well on Facebook.

Thanks for watching.



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter