Rampage against sleeping homeless leaves 4 dead in Manhattan’s Chinatown

  • >> Edgar Sandoval, William K Rashbaum and Yonette Joseph, The New York Times
    Published: 2019-10-06 02:16:16 BdST

An officer stands guard at the spot where police said one of four homeless men was killed in lower Manhattan on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. A fifth victim was in critical condition from the attack, and a 24-year-old suspect was in custody, police said. (Yana Paskova/The New York Times)

The killer first struck just before 2am Saturday on a quiet spot on East Broadway in Chinatown, sneaking up on three homeless men as they slept on a sidewalk and bludgeoning them to death with a rusty, 3-foot metal bar, police said.

He then ran a block north and attacked two more men sleeping on a sidewalk, killing one. The second man barely staggered away with his life.

In all, the suspect killed four homeless men and severely injured a fifth in a rampage that jolted a Manhattan neighbourhood with a long history of dealing with a large homeless population.

The Bowery, a street in lower Manhattan, has been the site of many flophouses, and the place where the attacks occurred lies just south of the Bowery Mission, one of the city’s oldest and most important aid organisations.

Steps away from the scenes of the gruesome killings, police officers spotted a 24-year-old man, also believed to be homeless, who fit the descriptions given by the survivor and other witnesses. He was holding a metal bar dripping with blood. He was taken into custody without incident, police said.

“The motive appears to be, right now, just random attacks,” said Michael Baldassano, chief of Manhattan South Detectives.

A law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation, identified the suspect as Rudy Rodriguez Santos, 24, and said he had been charged with killings. Santos was captured on surveillance video approaching some of the victims carrying the metal bar believed to have been used in the killings, the official said.

Advocates say it is difficult to determine the exact number of homeless people living on the city’s streets, in the subways and in other public spaces, but it is thought to be in the thousands.

Johnnie Wilcox, 62, who lives on the streets, said that violence is nearly a daily occurrence for homeless people like him.

“I’ve had guys that walk, drinking, coming out of bars, running and jumping onto my stomach,” Wilcox said. “Living on the streets is hell.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said it will dedicate resources to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

The fifth victim, who is 49 years old, was transported to the hospital with critical injuries, police said.

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