A second homeless man has been found murdered in NYC in the space of 36 hours, with cops now saying they fear the assailant is a serial killer who also shot a vagrant dead in Washington DC.
The latest victim, an unidentified 43 year-old man, was discovered dead in Murray Street in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood Sunday night. His body was pictured being loaded into the back of a medical examiner’s van shortly afterwards while crime scene technicians in white plastic hazmat suits combed the scene.
His remains were discovered shortly before the NYPD and Washington DC Metro Police Department issued a rare joint statement saying the same man is wanted for three attacks in NYC – two of them deadly, as well as three attacks in Washington DC earlier this month, the last of which resulted in the victim’s death.
The statement said: ‘Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell and Chief of Police Robert J. Contee, III of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, DC, announce that several shootings that occurred in the District of Columbia and New York City have been committed by the same suspect.
‘Both departments are investigating these offenses jointly with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).’
Cops in NYC have surveillance footage of a man, believed to be black and about 5’4, fleeing the scene of his second murder in the early hours of Saturday.
Meanwhile, cops in DC released images of an unmasked man in dark clothing fleeing the second of three attacks known to have been carried out in that city.
Between the two cities, there have been five shootings, including three homicides. All victims targeted were homeless, although police have yet to outline a motive to explain why the vulnerable men have been targeted.
This comes as the US faces a huge homelessness crisis, with the pandemic causing a rise in unemployment and a surge in housing costs that left nearly 600,000 Americans with no home in 2020.
Between New York and Washington D.C., there have been a total of five shootings and two homicides.
The Washington shootings happened between March 3rd and 8th.
On March 3 at 4am, a man was found after police say gunshots were heard on New York Avenue, Northeast. They went to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
At 1:21am on March 8, police responded to a shooting in H Street Northeast in DC where they found a man with non-life-threatening injuries having been shot.
The following day, on March 9, around 3am, police in DC saw a fire happening in tent in which a homeless man had been sleeping. After the flames were extinguished investigators found a dead body.
Police believe the man had been murdered after an autopsy revealed gunshot and stab wounds.
The New York attacks began in the early hours of Saturday, when a homeless man was shot in the arm around 4:30am while asleep in a doorway on King Street in Manhattan.
When the suspect fired at him, he woke up and yelled: ‘What the hell are you doing?’ according to police.
But then the quick-thinking victim then pretended to call 911 as he put his fingers to his ear, despite not having a phone reports the New York Daily News, fooling the gunman into thinking law enforcement were on their way.
The suspect then ran off into the night, only to find a second unsuspecting homeless man 90 minutes later. That victim, a 33 year-old man, was shot and killed in a SoHo doorway.
The NYPD is now offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can help them catch the ‘cold-blooded’ killer who shot the two homeless men.
The second victim died after being shot in the head and neck at 6am on 148 Lafayette Street, opposite the luxury 11 Howard hotel. It took 12 hours for police to realize the man was was dead and recover his lifeless body – riddled with bullet holes – from the bright yellow sleeping bag he’d been in.
In the Lafayette Street killing, the suspect was filmed in chilling surveillance footage wearing a black ski mask and black clothing. He was seen prodding the helpless victim several times before looking around before firing his fatal shots. The man’s age is not known but he was described by police as a Hispanic man.
In an urgent appeal yesterday, Mayor Eric Adams said: ‘Homelessness turning into a homicide. We need to find this person and we need New Yorkers to help us. This is a cold blooded act of murder.’
Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website.
Given the similarity in the modus operandi of the perpetrator, common circumstances involved in each shooting, circumstances of the victims and recovered evidence, the NYPD, the MPDC and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will jointly investigate these offenses.
Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said: ‘Our homeless population is one of our most vulnerable and an individual praying on them as they sleep is an exceptionally heinous crime. We will use every tool, every technique and every partner to bring the killer to justice.’
New York City has the largest homeless population in the US and has seen an uptick in crime in recent months.
Since 2007, overall homelessness in the US has improved by 10 percent, from 647,000 to 580,000, in figures according to CNBC.
But certain subgroups such as individual homelessness has only seen a 1 percent decrease in figures, from 413,000 in 2007 to 409,000 by 2020.
In the first year of the pandemic the numbers got far worse for the unsheltered homeless, with a 30 percent increase from 173,000 in 2015 to 226,000 in 2020.
New York’s spending in attempt to beat homelessness reached an all-time high in 2019 when they pledged $3.2billion, which was double their spend in 2014.
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said: ‘From the first incident, the Metropolitan Police has spared no resource in our efforts to identify the suspect behind these cowardly acts. We are committed to sharing every investigative path, clue and piece of evidence with our law enforcement partners to bring this investigation to a swift conclusion and the individual behind these vicious crimes to justice.’
ATF Director Marvin Richardson said: ‘Our Washington and New York City field offices have been working hand-in-hand with the DC metropolitan police and the New York Police Department from the outset. One of these shootings occurred within blocks of our Washington DC headquarters.
‘We have used our advanced ATF systems to conduct real-time analysis backed up by our ATF National Lab in Maryland to expedite the evidence and assist in the investigations and Washington DC and New York City. Our three agencies are one team.’
‘Homelessness turning into a homicide,’ Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference on Saturday night.
‘I believe that’s what makes this case so horrific, watching the video, watching the individual intentionally walk up to innocent people that are dealing with the challenges of homelessness – and it’s quite possible that one of our citizens is still alive merely because he woke up,’ Adams said.
And I’m here today to send a very clear message, that all New Yorkers matter.’
‘Two individuals were shot while sleeping on the streets, not committing a crime but sleeping on the streets,’ said the mayor with an air of disbelief.
Chief Hank Saunter added: ‘We’re talking about two individuals that are homeless.
‘The most vulnerable population in the city right now.’
The US has a system of temporary shelters that reaches homeless people in need of a place to stay, but many still sleep on sidewalks, subway trains, vehicles or parks, and other locations not designated for the purpose of housing people.
These people who are unsheltered are amongst the most vulnerable since they are so exposed to any elements of safety.
Those killed in the spree of unprovoked attacks on homeless people in New York and Washington in recent weeks were unsheltered.
Police said that they will be out in droves trying to get men and women sleeping on the streets to head to a city shelter for their safety.
Separately, two Museum of Modern Art employees were stabbed by a crazed former member yesterday.
The man had just had his membership revoked, according to the authorities.
He went to the museum yesterday and stabbed two female employees.
The brutal killing comes as the city is reeling from a February crime wave that saw a nearly 60 percent spike in incidents from this same period last year.
The city’s latest crime figures show 9,138 incidents in February, as opposed to 5,759 during the same period in 2021 – with double-digit surges in nearly every major category.
There were 32 murders in February, three more than the same month last year.
Multiple other categories saw shocking jumps, including car theft, which soared by nearly 105 percent; grand larceny, which jumped nearly 80 percent over the previous year; robberies, which surged 56 percent; a 44 percent bump in burglaries and a 22 percent spike in assaults. Rapes also saw a terrifying 35 percent rise in February.
The crime wave comes during Adams’ first few months in office. The former NYPD cop has vowed to crack down on the influx of incidents on the city’s streets and subway system – which has seen a rash of violent incidents in recent weeks. Former Mayor Bill De Blasio’s policies contributed to the current crime wave, experts said.
In response to the crime wave, Adams pleaded with lawmakers in Albany recently to consider a controversial bail reform law that would allow judges to consider whether a person is dangerous before releasing them from jail.
Adams wants to see changes in bail reform laws and other criminal justice measures, saying they will bring down crime rates in the city and reduce gun violence.
In February, Adams, who campaigned last year on getting people to get back to work amid the Covid pandemic and cleaning up the crime-ridden subway system, outlined his plans for city bail laws, which can allow for suspects to roam the streets often within hours of an arrest.
‘Let’s remove the cash bail system, because one should not be able to get out of jail just because you can pay bail. Let’s take that away. Judges should look at the case in front of them and say, ‘This person has two gun arrests, and he’s continually saying to the people of the city that I don’t care about the safety of you,” the mayor said.
‘That judge should have the right to make the discretion that this person just be held.’
In January 2020, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 580,466 people were reported to be experiencing homelessness in the US, with most of that figure made up of individuals, 70 percent, and the rest people living in families with children.
For Washington DC this time last year, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a report which found that Washington state experienced one of the largest estimated increases in homelessness between 2019 and 2020 relative to other states.
The state reported an increase in homelessness of 6.2 percent, which equates to 1,346 people, between 2019 and 2020.
This is the third largest increase among all US States, as reported by The Seattle Times.
Around 20% of all sheltered homeless people in the US are living in New York City, which is the highest rate across the US.
Across the US, the rate of homeless people is 17 per 10,000, but in New York City, Washington DC and Boston, the homeless rate is well above 100 per 10,000 people.
Washington reported a 20 percent increase in family homelessness between 2019 and 2020 which was one of the biggest increases nationwide.
In October 2021, Seattle committed $48 million to build 165 apartments to house some of it’s 12,000 homeless people in October.
Seattle’s homeless population had grown form around 11,000 in 2020 to 12,000 in 2021, when the city built the new housing units.
The same was seen in San Francisco, which has spent $667 million on its Department of Homeless and Supportive Housing. The city recorded about 8,000 homeless people in 2021, a 17 per cent increase from the last count in 2017.
In Austin, Texas, the city allocated $68 million last year for homelessness assistance, Austin saw its homeless population grow from 3,024 in 2019 to nearly 3,200 in 2020.