The police in New York City and Washington and federal investigators intensified their search on Monday for a gunman who they said had been targeting homeless people sleeping outdoors and had shot at least five men, two of them fatally.
The assailant's last known attack was early Saturday morning, when he shot a man sleeping in a doorway in SoHo in Manhattan in the head, killing him, the police said. The police are investigating whether another homeless man who was found dead on Sunday may have been killed by the same man.
Mayors Eric Adams of New York and Muriel Bowser of Washington issued a joint statement on Sunday night urging anyone sleeping on the street to seek shelter.
"It is heartbreaking and tragic to know that in addition to all the dangers that unsheltered residents face, we now have a coldblooded killer on the loose, but we are certain that we will get the suspect off the street and into police custody," the mayors said.
The gunman shot three men in Washington between March 3 and March 9, and two men in Lower Manhattan on Saturday, the authorities said. The victim in Washington who died was shot and stabbed multiple times and his tent was set on fire, the Metropolitan Police Department said.
The police departments in the two cities said on Sunday that "similarity in the modus operandi of the perpetrator, common circumstances involved in each shooting, circumstances of the victims and recovered evidence" led them and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to undertake a joint investigation.
The police have not offered a motive for the shootings and have not said what specific evidence led them to connect the attacks in the two cities.
The police in Washington are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman, and the police in New York are offering a $10,000 reward .
In New York, the shootings come several weeks into a campaign by Mr. Adams to remove homeless people who shelter in the subway system . Advocates for homeless people had warned that the effort would push many people to the street because there was a chronic shortage of housing in New York for people who choose to live in the subway, most of whom refuse to stay in the city's barrackslike group shelters.
The shootings underscored the vulnerability of people sleeping in public places, who are subject to unprovoked attacks, and recalled other serial attacks against homeless people in New York City, 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.
The first three shootings were in Washington, all in the Northeast section. The Metropolitan Police Department said that one man was shot on March 3 on the 1100 block of New York Avenue and another on Tuesday on the 1700 block of H street. Neither of them were shot fatally, and both happened in the middle of the night.
On Wednesday, police officers and firefighters responding to a tent fire on New York Avenue a few blocks from the site of the first shooting found a man inside the tent who had been fatally shot and stabbed, the Metropolitan Police Department said.
The gunman struck again in Manhattan before dawn on Saturday. At about 4:30 a.m., the police, responding to a call, went to the corner of King and Varick Streets near the Holland Tunnel and found a 38-year-old 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 on Saturday evening.
The victim screamed, "What are you doing?" and the assailant fled, Chief 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. He had been shot in the head and the neck.
The police have not released any of the victims' names.
The police in New York were also investigating the death of another homeless man in Lower Manhattan on Sunday evening. The man, 43, was found dead at Greenwich and Murray Streets in TriBeCa in Manhattan, the police said — at the same moment that a demonstration and vigil for the earlier Manhattan victims was being held near the site of one of the earlier shootings .
The police initially said the man appeared to have died of a gunshot but later said the cause of death had not been determined. It is not clear if his death is linked to the five shootings.
On Saturday, Mr. Adams called the New York 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.
Though homeless people in New York City have been accused in a string of violent incidents during the pandemic, advocates say that homeless people are more often the victims of violence than the perpetrators.
In New York in 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 of Manhattan. In December, a 75-year-old man sleeping in a bank vestibule in Manhattan was stomped and injured; last month, at 3 a.m. in a subway station in Queens, a homeless man was stabbed and injured by several men who had tried to rob him .
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