Two people have been killed in shootings in New York and Washington, D.C., in the past two weeks that targeted unoccupied streets.
The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., has arrested a man in connection with shootings of homeless people in the U.S. capital and New York City, officials said Tuesday.
Two men were killed and three wounded in shootings over the past 10 days, with Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and her New York Mayor Eric Adams calling the alleged perpetrators a “cold-blooded killer.”
Police in both cities posted surveillance photos of the suspect and offered a $55,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. The mayors are appealing to the public to help find the gunman.
The Metropolitan Police said in a tweet that the arrested man, who has not been named, is being interviewed by law enforcement. Authorities have said they are looking for a lone gunman who forensic evidence has linked to the shootings of five homeless men in both cities.
The first shooting occurred in the early hours of March 3 in northeastern Washington. The victim was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to officials.
Five days later, another homeless man was shot dead in northeastern Washington, police said. He also suffered non-life threatening wounds.
The next day, a homeless man was found dead from knife and gunshot wounds in northeastern Washington, police said. The tent where he lived was on fire.
A 38-year-old man was shot in the arm at night in lower Manhattan in New York City on March 12, police said.
About half an hour later, police found the body of another man in a sleeping bag on the same block. He was shot in the head and neck.
Investigators in the two cities began to suspect a link between the shootings after the Metropolitan Police Department’s homicide chief — a former New York City resident — saw surveillance photos posted by NYPD on social media.
DC Police Chief Robert Contee praised the quick coordination between the departments, saying it “could have taken months” to uncover a link between the attacks without officers making contact.
On Monday, as the manhunt was underway, both Adams and Bowser urged anyone living on the street to go to an urban shelter, where it may be safer.
“We know that our homeless residents already face many daily dangers, and it would be unconscionable for anyone to target this vulnerable group,” Bowser said.
New York City police and homeless outreach teams will focus on finding homeless people in subways and elsewhere, urging them to seek shelter at city-owned shelters, Adams said.
About 45,000 people live in homeless shelters every night in New York City, and thousands more live on the streets. The city’s homeless population is about 80,000, according to U.S. government data compiled by the charity Bowery Mission.
The New York City mayor has been criticized by some anti-poverty advocates for his plan to remove the homeless from the city’s subway system by deploying police and mental health workers to stop people sleeping on trains or stations.
Adams defended the policy on Monday, saying it was designed to keep commuters and the homeless safe.
“There is no dignity in allowing people to sleep on subway platforms,” he said.
In January, a homeless man with mental health issues shoved and killed a woman in front of an oncoming subway train in Manhattan. The attack has commuters in New York City nervous.