May 31, 2006 — A gun-toting stalker, who claimed she was pressured into a lesbian affair by members of a hippie-style commune on Staten Island, opened fire on its co-founder in a midnight ambush that left him critically wounded, authorities said yesterday.
Despite his life-threatening injuries, Jeff Gross, who helped establish Ganas, the city’s oldest ’60s-style commune, was able to tell cops who allegedly shot him once in the chest and twice in the arm outside his Tompkinsville home Sunday night.
Yesterday, heavily armed, flak-jacketed detectives fanned out across Staten Island searching for the crazed suspect: former commune member Rebekah Johnson, 43.
Gross’ relieved wife, Susan Grossman, a doctor at Staten Island’s St. Vincent’s Hospital, said her husband was upgraded from critical to stable condition following surgery.
Grossman was at home with their 3-year-old daughter when at least seven shots from a .380 handgun rang out.
“He was on his way home from the Al Gore movie [“An Inconvenient Truth”] coming up the steps. She just jumped out of the bushes and started shooting,” Grossman claimed.
“We’ve had restraining orders. We’ve called the police before. She’s not a person unknown to this community,” the wife said.
The shooting capped a vicious, decade-long grudge between the heavyset, blue-eyed Johnson and the commune’s 52-year-old co-founder.
“She’s made wild allegations against him, accusing him of being a rapist and pimp,” said a police source, referring to fliers Johnson had passed out in the neighborhood and online postings.
In 1999, Johnson filed a $3 million sexual-harassment lawsuit, claiming she was booted from the open-lifestyle group after two years for refusing to have a lesbian relationship.
Court papers stated that in March 1987, a group member, Julia Greve, “publicly taunted and harassed Johnson about her sexuality, criticized and ridiculed her clothing and appearance, telling her she looked and acted like a ‘dyke’ “
Residents of Ganas, which means “desire” in Spanish, vehemently denied all the charges. A law-enforcement source, too, said the claims were unfounded.
In November 2004, the snaggle-toothed Johnson was arrested for stalking and snapping pictures of Gross at the Waterfront Ferry Festival on Staten Island, an event that the civic activist had established.
The following month, Johnson was busted for allegedly trailing Gross while he was jogging, then leaping out of her car to take his picture.
Those two charges were later dropped. In an earlier incident, someone had spray-painted the words “rapist” and “pimp” on a wall of the compound that Gross shares with some 100 residents.
The sex-harassment suit, which names Gross, among others, stated that Johnson was pressured to pursue a relationship with Greve.
The lawsuit, which was later dropped for unspecified reasons, charged that Gross “assaulted and restrained [Johnson by] imposing his body on her. Ordering her to leave, violently grasping her arms and threatening to strike her.”
In one discussion group session, called “learning feedback,” Johnson said the group called for her to “be killed due to her worthlessness . . .”
When she refused to engage in the affair, she claims, was evicted from the cooperative community, where members share meals, property and even partners.
Each member can receive a monthly $200 stipend plus room and board for working at one of the four group-owned thrift stores, called Everything Goes.
Johnson also claimed, that in her one brief affair with another co-founder, she contracted herpes and AIDS.
“She joined the community about 15 years ago and she left,” said one longtime Ganas member.
“She was clearly unhappy. A few years after that, she asked to come back. We were very hesitant . . . She seemed to really want to try again, but she left, unhappy again, for a second time.”
Additional reporting by John Doyle
May 31, 2006
Jeane MacIntosch, Erika Martinez and Cynthia R. Fagen