A homeless man wielding a long metal pipe rampaged through New York City early Saturday attacking other homeless people who were sleeping, killing four and leaving a fifth in critical condition, police said.
Chief of Manhattan South Detectives Michael Baldassano said at a Saturday news conference that the men were attacked at random in the city’s Chinatown neighbourhood with the object that authorities recovered.
Police responded to a 911 call just before 2 a.m. as one assault was in progress.
A 24-year-old suspect was in custody but has yet to be charged, the detective said. Police recovered a metal pipe that was still in the suspect’s hands when he was arrested after fleeing following the attacks.
The chief said he also is homeless.
“The motive appears to be right now, just random attacks; it doesn’t seem any of them (the victims) was targeted by race, age — anything of that nature,” Baldassano said.
Two witnesses told responding officers that the suspect was wearing a black jacket and black pants that helped police find him quickly just a few streets away.
Two of the men were killed on The Bowery, which cuts through the heart of Chinatown and has for decades been known as New York’s skid row, inhabited by homeless addicts and alcoholics.
During the day, the increasingly gentrified neighbourhood is bustling with small businesses and street vendors offering discount goods, its sidewalks packed with pedestrians.
Late at night, when the shops close, it turns into a quiet, desolate neighbourhood that was the setting for Saturday’s attacks.
The victims were attacked in three different locations near the intersection of The Bowery and East Broadway. One died of blunt trauma to the head. A second man was attacked nearby but survived. He was hospitalized in critical condition. Police planned to question him as soon as possible.
The other three victims, attacked about a block away, also died of head trauma.
The New York Post published photos of two of the victims under a white sheet, one slumped in a blood-spattered doorway. The other lay under a sheet on the sidewalk. The identities of the victims have not been released.
Baldassano said police were searching the neighbourhood for any other possible victims.
New York City’s homeless population has grown in recent years, to a great extent because of the lack of affordable housing.
Homeless people remain among the city’s most vulnerable residents. Over the last five years, an average of seven have been slain each year.