• Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022

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Police Seek Help to Find Suspect Who Shot 2 Homeless Men, Killing One

New York City police have offered a $10,000 reward for help finding a person who shot two sleeping homeless men, one fatally, in Lower Manhattan early Saturday morning.

At about 4:30 a.m., the police responded to a call at the corner of King and Varick Streets near the Holland Tunnel and found a 38-year-old Hispanic man with a gunshot wound to his right forearm. The man had been sleeping when he was shot, Deputy Chief Hank Sautner of the New York Police Department said at a news conference Saturday.

The victim screamed, “What are you doing?” and the assailant fled east on King Street, Mr. Sautner said. The victim was in stable condition at a nearby hospital, the police said.

About 15 blocks away around 6 a.m., the same person fatally shot a man who was asleep in a sleeping bag outside 148 Lafayette Street in SoHo, according to the police, who based their conclusion on a review of video footage.

Officers found the man dead at the scene when they responded to a 911 call shortly before 5 p.m., the police said. The man, who had been shot in the head and the neck, was Black, but no evidence suggested he or the other man were targeted for their race, Mr. Sautner said.

“The connectivity here is obviously that both gentleman are homeless,” he said. The police did not release either victim’s name.

The shootings underscored the vulnerability of people sleeping in public places, who are subject to unprovoked attacks, including a 2019 spree that left four homeless men dead in Chinatown and the February 2021 stabbings of four homeless people in and around the subway, two of whom died. (Both men charged in those attacks were themselves homeless.)

Last November, a 32-year-old man was fatally stabbed while sleeping on a subway train, and a 66-year-old homeless man was set on fire and died while sleeping in a stairwell on the Lower East Side. In December, a 75-year-old man sleeping in a bank vestibule in Manhattan was stomped and injured, and last month at 3 a.m. in a subway station in Queens, a homeless man was stabbed and injured by several men who tried to rob him.

Mayor Eric Adams called Saturday’s shootings a “clear and horrific intentional act” carried out because the men were homeless. “We need to find this person, and we need New Yorkers to help us,” he said. The reward announced by the police offers $3,500 upon indictment and $6,500 upon conviction of the man responsible for the shootings.

The shootings came less than a month after Mr. Adams launched an effort to remove homeless people who shelter in the subway system. Advocates warned at the time that given the chronic shortage of housing options palatable to people who choose to live in the subway, most of whom refuse to stay in the city’s barracks-like group shelters, the mayor’s plan could end up pushing people from subways to the streets.

Mr. Adams said Saturday that he had recently been on the subway at 2 a.m. and seen “far too many people” who appeared to consider the subway system their only prospect for shelter.

“We must make sure that does not continue,” Mr. Adams said. “That is my commitment and obligation.”