In less than two weeks, the mayors of New York City and Washington, D.C. have appealed to the public for assistance in finding a gunman who has been following homeless men sleeping on their streets, murdering at least two people and wounded three more.
Multiple surveillance images, including a close-up snapshot clearly displaying the man’s face, were issued by police in the two cities, and they begged anybody who knew him to come forward.
“Our reach is long and broad, and we’re coming for you,” said Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee, referring directly to the gunman at a press conference in Washington.
Investigators said, however, that they still didn’t know much about the alleged killer or his reason.
At a joint press conference, Mayors Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., and Eric Adams of New York Public urged anybody living on the streets to seek refuge in city shelters.
“We know our unsheltered citizens suffer numerous daily threats, and it is abhorrent that anybody would target this vulnerable community,” Bowser said.
New York City police and homeless outreach teams, according to Adams, would focus on discovering unhoused persons in subways and other public spaces and encouraging them to seek shelter at city-run shelters.
In Washington, local outreach workers distributed posters to the homeless population, advising them to “be careful” and including various photos of the suspect.
According to Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, the recent violence highlighted the need of getting the homeless off the streets and into secure homes.
“These folks were assaulted because they lacked the security of permanent residence,” she explained. “That’s why we must seize these tragedies as a chance to redouble our efforts to guarantee that people have a better alternative than the streets, where they are vulnerable to both the elements and those who intend to harm them.”
On Sunday, investigators in both cities began to suspect a connection between the shootings after a Metropolitan Police Department murder commander — a former New York City resident — spotted surveillance photographs published by the NYPD on Saturday night while reading through social media.
The man in the images looked a lot like the one his own department was looking for.
D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee complimented the swift collaboration between agencies, stating that “it might have been months” before the link between the assaults was established if the officer hadn’t made the connection.
According to authorities, the first known incident occurred about 4 a.m. on March 3 in Washington, D.C., when a man was shot and injured in the city’s Northeast district. On March 8, at before 1:30 a.m., a second guy was injured.
On March 9, around 3 a.m., police and firemen discovered a deceased man inside a blazing tent. He was first supposed to have died as a result of lethal burns, but an examination later revealed that he had died as a result of several knife and gunshot wounds.
According to officials, the assailant then went north to New York City.
A 38-year-old guy was shot in the right arm while sleeping on the street in Manhattan near the Holland Tunnel entrance around 4:30 a.m. Saturday.
According to authorities, the victim yelled and the shooter left.
According to authorities, the shooter shot and killed another guy on Lafayette Street in SoHo about 90 minutes later.
“He took a glance around. He double-checked that no one was present. “And he took the life of an innocent person on purpose,” Adams added.
Just before 5 p.m. Saturday, the man’s body was discovered in his sleeping bag.
“Anyone who is homeless may have ended up in that same predicament,” Kess Abraham, who became homeless last month, said.
Abraham sought aid at the Bowery Mission, which homes hundreds of homeless individuals in its facilities around the city, after seeking sanctuary in parks and other locations throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.
He expressed his sadness at learning of “a person who lived on the streets and was presumably doing his own thing was murdered for no cause.”
Joel Castillo, a 24-year-old who was also at the mission’s downtown location and was having his first touch with homelessness, said more should be done to keep the city’s citizens safe, homeless or not.
“I’m not sure if it’s a police issue, but given the circumstances, I think the cops should step up and do a little more.” “I’m not saying they don’t do enough,” he added, “but I am saying that there should be a lot more procedures done to safeguard the safety of the city’s taxpayers.”
The fact that one of the deaths occurred mere blocks away from the organization’s emergency shelter was “extremely depressing,” said to James Winans, the mission’s chief executive officer.
The most recent attacks echoed the beating murders of four homeless men sleeping on the streets in New York’s Chinatown in the autumn of 2019. Randy Santos, another homeless guy, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the attacks.
A year ago, a guy arbitrarily assaulted homeless individuals in the subway system in New York City, stabbing four people, two of whom died. The assailant, who was also homeless, is currently in custody.
Some anti-poverty campaigners have chastised New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his intention to remove homeless people from the city’s subway system by deploying police and mental health specialists to prevent individuals from sleeping in trains or stops.
On Monday, Adams defended the policy, claiming that it was put in place to ensure the safety of both commuters and homeless people.
Allowing people to sleep on subway platforms is “nothing decent,” he added.