Several shootings involving homeless individuals in both Washington, D.C. and New York City may be connected to the same suspect, the NYPD said Sunday night.
Authorities from both jurisdictions released surveillance images of the person they tied to five shootings, including two homicides, in hopes of learning more about the alleged assailant. The shootings took place between March 3 and March 12, with three reported in Washington, D.C. and two in New York City.
"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 [Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.] and the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] will jointly investigate these offenses," the NYPD said in a statement Sunday.
The NYPD said the first shooting offense occurred on March 3 near the 1100 block of New York Avenue in Washington, D.C. around 4 a.m., when authorities found an adult homeless man with gunshot wounds. He was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries, cops said.
On March 8, another shooting was reported near the 1700 block of H Street in Washington, D.C. around 1:21 a.m., when police found another homeless man with gunshot wounds that were later deemed non-life threatening.
A tent fire was later reported near the 400 block of New York Avenue in Washington, D.C. on March 9 around 2:54 a.m., where police found a dead man who was also homeless. The chief medical examiner's office later ruled the man's death a homicide after finding multiple stab and gunshot wounds to his body, police said.
The first New York shooting of this kind was reported on March 12, when a 38-year-old man was shot while sleeping on King Street between Varick Street and 6th Avenue around 4:30 a.m. During a press conference on Saturday night, NYPD Deputy Chief Hank Sautner said the victim woke up when shot and asked, “What are you doing?” The assailant fled, and the victim, who was shot in the arm, was listed in stable condition at Bellevue.
Another shooting, this time fatal, was reported later that day around 6 a.m. outside of 148 Lafayette St. just north of Canal Street, according to an NYPD spokesperson. The victim was found dead in his sleeping bag later in the day around 5 p.m. with gunshot wounds to the head and neck, the NYPD said.
"The connectivity here is obviously that both gentlemen are homeless," Sautner said after the second New York shooting.
Less than 24 hours later, on Sunday night, a man believed to be homeless was killed in Tribeca. Police initially reported the death as resulting from a gunshot wound, but later suggested it may have been a drug overdose and thus unrelated to the string of fatal shootings.
“Our homeless population is one of our most vulnerable and an individual preying on them as they sleep is an exceptionally heinous crime," Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said in a statement. "We will use every tool, every technique and every partner to bring the killer to justice.”
Police have released stills from the surveillance video that show the suspect in the first two New York shootings, and are asking for help in identifying him.
At a press conference on Saturday night, Mayor Eric Adams described the crimes as a "chilling" act of "cold-blooded murder," and said the incidents were a "clear and horrific intentional act" targeting homeless individuals.
“Two individuals were shot while sleeping on the street,” Adams said over the weekend as news of the city shootings developed. “Not committing a crime, but sleeping on the streets.”
Anyone with knowledge of these incidents was asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).
This story has been updated to reflect new information provided by the NYPD regarding the death of a homeless man Sunday night.