At an announcement at police headquarters Wednesday night, suspect Daniel St. Hubert was described as a recently paroled 27-year-old Black male, approximately 5’10 and 210 pounds.
On Wednesday police said they had not ruled out the possibility that Hubert was also involved in the Friday night killing of 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland. She was found brutally stabbed near a rail yard just blocks from where the children were attacked two days later.
Police said Hubert has a prior address in East New York where the killings occurred.
As police swept the area this week searching for information that might lead to the killer, community safety organizations joined in. The well-organized groups work in concert with the police.
Earlier on Wednesday, one of the groups stepped back when they got word that DNA evidence had been identified, although Bratton later characterized it as “forensic evidence,” declining to confirm reports of DNA evidence.
“You don’t have to be out on the forefront to do good work,” said Shanduke McPhatter, who heads up the group Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes (GMACC). McPhatter said he and his group have been in close touch with authorities.
McPhatter’s group has been combing through the neighborhood in the wee hours of the night this past week. Their main goal is to ensure that the wrong person isn’t arrested.
A murder weapon—a cheap, kitchen-grade steak knife, was recovered at the scene of the young boy’s murder.
“Late nights, that’s our time—we talk to the ears of the streets,” he said, and added that many area residents have a deeply-rooted mistrust of the police.
The GMACC group that combed through the area consisted of 12 men and women who approached people to talk with them about what they may know.
Though he said they are known in the area, they choose who to approach on a case-by-case basis. “We look at the person and determine whether to do a meet and greet.”
“We tell them we are just trying to find who committed this heinous act,” he said. They see it as their job is to make sure the community is safe and to help ensure that the police have the right information and the wrong person isn’t arrested.
GMACC haven’t been the only community group active in the area.
Man Up was also told by police on Wednesday of the existence of DNA evidence. The group’s members, who are a well-known presence, provide bereavement counseling to community members and engage with high-risk youth. They also sometimes get involved in diffusing conflicts before they escalate.
James Peterson, assistant executive director of Man Up, said they don’t get directly involved in any arrests or captures of criminals.
“The arrest is any minute once they got a tag on you like that,” said Peterson about the DNA evidence.
Among community members, there are varying degrees of trust in groups like GMACC and Man Up.
“If I knew something, I would tell Man Up before I tell the police,” said Randy McFadden, a resident of Boulevard Houses where the stabbing took place. He has lived in East New York all his life.
Another resident of Boulevard Houses, Khilika Bones, said she’d be willing to talk to either.
“I think Man Up and the cops are equal,” said Bones. “There used to be cops all around this neighborhood, then they left and it was Man Up all over this neighborhood.”
But she said on the day the children were attacked, nobody was around.
“This kind of thing actually doesn’t happen often, despite what people are saying.”
With additional reporting by Amelia Pang and Brendon Fallon.