NYC’s homeless community ‘terrified’ as ‘serial killer’ targets rough sleepers on street after subway crackdown

A SUSPECTED serial killer targeting homeless men is having a chilling effect on New York City's most vulnerable.

Derrick DeMaria, who is an advocate for the homeless community, said rough sleepers are "terrified" after a deranged shooter targeted five people living on the streets in Manhattan and Washington, DC.

He walked through the Big Apple's Tompkins Park with The Sun on Monday – an area he knows intimately – and couldn't find anyone he knew.

"It's really odd," he told The Sun in an exclusive interview in the East Village public park.

"I don't know where everyone is. Usually, they're all around here, especially on a day like this."

It was about 55 degrees and sunny, a stark contrast to the dark times over the weekend when two homeless men were shot between 4.30 am and 6 am.

One victim was shot in the arm but survived; the second victim was woken up, shot a point-blank range in the head and neck, and died.


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The suspect is believed to be a serial killer targeting the homeless in Washington DC and New York City, the NYPD and Washington Metro Police said in joint statements.

Between March 3 and 9, police said the same man allegedly shot three homeless men in DC. One of the three died.

"I really don't know why," DeMaria said when asked why he thought the homeless would be targets of violence.

"I talked to my friend in one of the nearby shelters, and he's scared. There's so much anxiousness and fear among the houseless. They don't know where to go or what to do," he said.

"I talked to someone this morning who might be losing his status in his shelter, and he's really upset, and now he's afraid to be on the street with someone killing the houseless."

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John, who's homeless and living in a shelter, told The Sun in a separate interview that the homeless community in downtown Manhattan is scared for their lives.

"There's always been violence against us because we're not seen as human," said John, whose last name is being withheld to avoid retribution or being targeted.

"I've slept on the street for years," he said. "There's always a fear of being attacked. It's hard to sleep most nights.

"And now every one of my homeless peeps sleeping on the street near the shootings, especially the elderly or mentally ill, are in danger."


The NYPD issued a statement saying they're pouring resources into finding this suspected serial killer.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell tweeted, "NYPD officers are working tirelessly to bring the person responsible for the shootings of two of our most vulnerable New Yorkers to justice.

"They’re connecting with those in need of services, searching block-by-block, and in contact with @DCPoliceDept partners. We will find him."

A combined reward of $10,000 is being offered for information that catches the suspect.


Since the pandemic began, many of Big Apple's homeless have been shuffled from shelters to hotels back to shelters.

But many of New York City's shelters have poor living conditions, DeMaria said.

Instead of living in the shelters, some homeless people set up tents in mini encampments on the street or in subways or chose to sleep on benches, DeMaria said.

"If you're even able to get a bed in a shelter, a lot of the facilities are dangerous," DeMaria said.

"Every hour on the hour, they wake everyone up for wellness checks so they get no sleep. Some have mental issues who aren't getting help, so there's weeping, muttering, anguish and hysteria.

"And that's from one of my friends in one of the best shelters. How can you have any existence like that?"


Some tried to escape the shelter life by living in tents.

He said there were about six to eight tents on the southside of Tompkins Park before police broke it up during a sweep in November.

Late February, the NYPD broke up dozens of encampments throughout the subway system.

Violence in the subways has been a hot issue in New York City, with crime spiking about 200 percent in February as more people return to work while the number of Covid cases declines.

During November's police sweep outside of Tompkins Park, DeMaria helped move possessions into storage but was arrested and charged with possession of the stolen property.

The case was ultimately dropped, and the district attorney is reviewing the arresting officer's actions, according to DeMaria's lawyer Paul Mills.

Some have mental issues who aren't getting help, so there's weeping, muttering, anguish and hysteria.

He said he doesn't know what happens to people after police break down encampments.

And now if they sleep outside, they have to worry about being gunned down, he said.

"Nowhere is safe for the houseless," DeMaria said.

"I hope the city can distribute more resources and allocate more funds to help the houseless instead of shaming them and blaming them.

"A lot of people have jobs but they don't make enough money or they get arrested and can't break the cycle. They can't be reincorporated back into society."


DeMaria said the Tompkins Park homeless encampment was a "loving, caring, and vibrant" community that looked out for each other.

While the city continues to shuffle the homeless around and the suspected serial killer is on the prowl, he said that's the best protection.

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"The community looks out for each other, but the mayor and city breaks up the communities and separates everyone," DeMaria said.

"Community is the key to protecting the houseless, but the city is ostracizing the houseless. No one wants to be houseless, and they're not getting help."

The mayors of NYC and DC have urged those experiencing homelessness in the two cities to seek shelter

“We are not going to rest until we find the individual responsible for this terrible act of taking the life of an innocent person merely as they slept on the streets,” Adams said. “We are calling on the public to help us solve this case.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers. There is a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

A task force of officers and a homeless outreach team is focusing on finding homeless people in the subways to urge them to go to city-owned shelters, said Adams.

Adams has also implemented an aggressive campaign to clear the subways of the homeless due to a surge of crime. 

In the first week, 143 people were arrested and the city’s subways had 455 people removed from trains and stations. 

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