Three brutal attacks were carried out on sleeping homeless men in New York’s Chinatown early Saturday morning. The attacks have left four dead and one in a critical condition in hospital, according to the New York Police Department. The identities of the victims have not been released.
NYPD Deputy Chief Inspector Michael Baldassano answered questions on the killing spree at a news conference on Saturday morning. Authorities are continuing to check the Chinatown area of New York’s Lower East Side for additional victims. Baldassano described the condition of the surviving victim as “very serious,” and said that the man had been transferred to a hospital immediately. Police had been unable, however, to conduct an in-depth interview with the survivor, he said.
“At this point, it appears that the victims were sleeping,” Baldassano said. The Deputy Police Chief also confirmed that a 24-year-old suspect had been taken into custody and that he is also a homeless man.
When asked by journalists about a possible motive for the savage killings, Baldassano stressed that the attacks appeared to be random in nature. “No one was targeted by race, age, anything of that nature,” he said.
Police responded to a 911 call just before 2 a.m. on Saturday morning and managed to apprehend a suspect close to the scene of one of the attacks. According to police reports, what appeared to be a length of metal pipe was found nearby. The suspected murder weapon is currently being examined by the NYPD Crime Scene Unit.
The NYPD has asked possible witnesses to come forward to assist in their investigations by calling the NYPD Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.
“Right now in the investigation, I would ask that…anyone who may have seen something last night, or even a few days in the past, or may have themselves been a victim of a crime like this, that they please contact the police,” said Baldassano. “We’ll take any information if someone saw something strange last night.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that he was “stunned and horrified by this senseless act of violence against the most vulnerable members of our community.” De Blasio launched new programs to help homeless people early in his tenure in an attempt to move more people off the street and into shelters. However, the program has faced challenges, with neighborhood opposition stifling the construction of new accommodation for the homeless.
We’re stunned and horrified by this senseless act of violence against the most vulnerable members of our community. It flies in the face of the values of our city. We’re keeping the victims and their loved ones in our hearts today.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) October 5, 2019
Homelessness on the Rise
According to New York’s Coalition for the Homeless, more people are currently homeless in the city than at any point since the Great Depression. With resources at the city’s shelters reaching a breaking point, hundreds are forced to sleep rough each night.
Studies have also shown that the majority of New Yorkers living on the streets are people with mental illness and/or other severe health issues.
Violence Against Homeless People
The annual report of the National Coalition for the Homeless from 2018 (pdf) details the litany of violence perpetrated against people experiencing homelessness throughout the United States. The report lists the 48 lethal attacks and 64 non-lethal attacks that occurred in the years 2016 and 2017.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council claims that the life expectancy of an average homeless person can be 20-30 years less than that of a member of the general population. Furthermore, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that as many as 13,000 homeless individuals die on America’s streets each year. However, a relatively small proportion of these deaths may be attributed directly to violent events.