New York and DC Police Search for Serial Killer
WASHINGTON — The mayors of Washington, D.C., and New York City released a statement Sunday saying they are tracking what appears to be a serial killer who is attacking homeless people at random in both cities.
Police blame at least six shootings or stabbings, three of them fatal, on a single man.
Another round of shootings on Saturday in New York is being investigated for possible links to the same assailant.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has joined the investigation. The agency is offering a $45,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the suspected killer.
“As our law enforcement agencies work quickly with federal partners to locate the suspect, we are also calling on unsheltered residents to seek shelter,” Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a joint statement. “Again, it is heartbreaking and tragic to know that in addition to all the dangers that unsheltered residents face, we now have a cold-blooded killer on the loose, but we are certain that we will get the suspect off the street and into police custody.”
The shootings are prompting officials in both cities to reconsider their policies on protecting homeless persons.
In Washington, the city council has moved in recent months to shut down homeless camps, which has the effect of scattering the residents and forcing some to sleep unprotected on streets.
Now council members are considering whether to allow the camps to reopen as a way of keeping homeless people together in a place where police can monitor them better.
During hearings in November to weigh options, Deputy Mayor Wayne Turnage told council members the number of homeless encampments grew 40% in the previous year. He put part of the blame on the economic recession and loss of jobs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, much of the city’s effort has been directed at giving homeless persons vouchers for temporary housing at public housing facilities or in low-rent apartments.
Critics of the program, called Coordinated Assistance and Resources for Encampments, or CARE, described it as a short-term solution.
One 37-year-old homeless man testified to the council by video link to say, “I’ve been homeless for seven years. Where are we supposed to go, a crowded bus stop? Or put a blanket on the street?”
In New York, many of the homeless people take refuge in the city’s vast subway system.
The city has been sending police and mental health workers into the system in recent weeks to clear them out. Police are enforcing rules that prohibit them from sleeping on trains or riding the same lines all night.
City and state officials say the rise in homeless persons created by the pandemic is frightening away other persons who want to ride the transit system to get home or to their jobs.
In the first suspected attack on a homeless person March 3, Washington police were called to a downtown neighborhood for a report of an adult male victim with gunshot wounds. He was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The first fatality was reported March 9 in Washington, when police saw a tent in a homeless encampment on fire. Further investigation revealed a deceased man inside who had been shot and stabbed multiple times.
In the shootings this weekend, a 38-year-old man was shot in the arm while sleeping on a street near the Empire State Building in New York City Saturday morning. He survived but a second homeless man suffered fatal “gunshot wounds to the head and neck” hours later, police said.
Washington Police Chief Robert Contee issued a statement Sunday saying, “From the first incident, the Metropolitan Police have spared no resources 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.”
Police also released photos of the suspect.
Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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