NEW YORK - A homeless man wielding a long metal bar rampaged through New York City’s Chinatown early Saturday attacking other homeless people who were sleeping, killing four and leaving a fifth with serious injuries, police said.
Police recovered the weapon, which was still in the suspect’s hands when he was arrested, officials said.
“The motive appears to be, right now, just random attacks,” Chief of Manhattan South Detectives Michael Baldassano said, adding there was no evidence yet that the victims were “targeted by race, age, anything of that nature.”
Randy Rodriguez Santos was taken into police custody early Saturday. Police say he has been arrested at least a half-dozen times in the past two years, three times on assault charges.
Santos was escorted out of a police station late Saturday. Detectives told journalists he was being taken to a hospital for the gathering of DNA evidence. An arraignment was expected Sunday morning. It wasn’t clear whether Santos had a lawyer yet.
The victims, all men, were attacked as they slept in doorways and sidewalks in three different locations in Chinatown, which is packed during daylight hours but empties out at night.
Police responded to a 911 call just before 2 a.m. as one assault was in progress. They found one man dead in the street and a second with critical head injuries. A search of the neighborhood turned up three additional bodies.
The suspect’s identity was revealed to The Associated Press by two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because criminal charges hadn’t yet been finalized.
The suspect’s mother, Fioraliza Rodriguez, 55, told the Daily News she had kicked him out about three years ago. He struggled with drugs, assaulted her and his grandfather, and stole from the family, she said.
“I never thought he would kill someone,” she said. “I was afraid of him, though, because he punched me. That’s when I told him to get out of my house.”
New York City’s homeless population has grown to record levels over the past decade, and the homeless remain among the most vulnerable residents. In the past five years, an average of seven have been slain each year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio launched new homeless outreach efforts early in his tenure in an attempt to move more people off the street and into shelters, but the program has faced challenges. City efforts to build more homeless shelters have dragged because of neighborhood opposition.