New York, NY – A manhunt is underway for the unidentified killer accused of a series of stabbings targeting homeless people in Manhattan.
New York Police Department (NYPD) investigators said they believe the same man is responsible for three recent knife attacks, one of which was fatal, the New York Daily News reported.
A suspect wearing an “Innocence Project” shirt was captured on video in the vicinity of all three attacks, according to the New York Post.
The first incident occurred at approximately 3 a.m. on July 5 near the intersection of Christopher Street and West Street in the West Village, police said.
A 34-year-old homeless man was sleeping next to a Citi Bike at that location when the suspect walked over, picked up the bike, and casually rode it around the block, the New York Post reported.
He then returned to the sleeping man and plunged a knife into his stomach, according to police.
A Hudson River Park employee said the wounded victim staggered through the park looking for help before he collapsed approximately seven blocks away from where he had been stabbed, the New York Daily News reported.
A bystander called 911 and the man was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where he died, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said during a press conference at One Police Plaza.
“Video of that incident is not on camera, but we observe a male black approximately 30 years old in a black hooded-sweatshirt with ‘Innocence Project’ written across it, black pants and a gray backpack with bright neon sneakers,” Chief Essig said, according to the New York Daily News.
Police said the next attack occurred near East 49th Street and Madison Avenue in the Diamond District at approximately 10 p.m. on July 8.
Video footage showed the suspect sitting and watching a 59-year-old homeless man for about a half hour while the victim slept on a bench, The New York Times reported.
The suspect then put on a face mask, walked over to the sleeping man, and wordlessly stabbed him in the abdomen, according to police.
The suspect was wearing the same clothing as the assailant seen in the first attack, the New York Post reported.
The victim didn’t report the stabbing until two days later, when he sought medical help at Weill Cornell Medical Center, according to the New York Daily News.
That victim is expected to recover.
The suspect struck again at approximately 3:30 a.m. on July 11.
Police said a 28-year-old homeless man was sleeping at the Stanley Isaacs Playground in Yorkville when he was stabbed in the stomach with a large kitchen knife, The New York Times reported.
“Our victim here is lying on the ground in the basketball court on his clothes,” Chief Essig said, according to the New York Post. “He states he felt a puncture in his side. He said he gave chase to the perpetrator but is unable to pursue due to his wounds.”
The victim was transported to Metropolitan Hospital in stable condition, the New York Daily News reported.
The identities of the three victims were not immediately released, according to The New York Times.
Investigators said the description of the suspect provided by the third victim was similar to that of the suspect in the previous two attacks, the New York Post reported.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the department released footage of the suspect in the hope that someone will recognize him and turn him in.
🚨WANTED for HOMICIDE: On 7/5/22 at approx. 3:09 AM, opposite 374 West 11 St in Manhattan, the suspect stabbed a 34-year-old male causing his death. The suspect also stabbed two additional people on 7/8/22 and 7/11/22, both survived. Any info? DM @NYPDTips, or call 800-577-TIPS. pic.twitter.com/lY2nYO3IYD
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) July 12, 2022
“Over the past week, there have been multiple stabbings in three different Manhattan precincts,” Commissioner Sewell said. “One victim succumbed to his injuries. These are senseless acts on defenseless people experiencing homelessness. And somebody knows this person.”
She said officers are working with the city’s Department of Homeless Services to spread the word that it is unsafe for homeless people to sleep outside, the New York Post reported.
Officers have also been instructed to “survey their area of assignment and proactively engage with apparently homeless individuals” and to “inform housing vulnerable individuals of the previously described incidents and show them the wanted flyers,” according to an NYPD internal memo.
“We need to get this killer off our streets as quickly and as safely as possible,” Commissioner Sewell said.
Beginning in late March, New York City Mayor Eric Adams enacted an effort to clear out the city’s homeless encampments and to persuade homeless individuals to take refuge in the city’s established shelters, The New York Times reported.
But most members of the homeless population have refused to go into the shelters, saying they feel safer out on the streets.
Crews cleared out encampments approximately 1,100 times between late March and June 1, The New York Times reported.
Only about 58 people encountered during the sweeps ended up agreeing to go to shelters.