A gunman has been targeting homeless men sleeping in the streets of Lower Manhattan and Washington and has shot five men, two of them fatally, in recent days, the police in the two cities said on Sunday.
The two police departments said in a joint statement 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 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 6:30 pm at Greenwich and Murray Streets in TriBeCa in Manhattan, the police said — at the same moment as 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.
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 fatally, both 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 am, 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 am, 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 pm, the police said. He had been shot in the head and the neck.
The police have not offered a motive for the shootings. New York’s police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, said in a statement, “Our homeless population is one of our most vulnerable, and an individual preying on them as they sleep is an exceptionally heinous crime.”
The shootings 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.
On Saturday, Mayor Eric Adams called the first two 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.
The police have not released any of the victims’ names.
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.
The shootings in New York came less than a month after Mr. Adams began an effort to remove homeless people who shelter in the subway system. Advocates warned at the time that given the chronic shortage of housing options palatable to people who choose to live in the subway, most of whom refuse to stay in the city’s barrackslike group shelters, the mayor’s plan could end up pushing people from subways to the streets .