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Police hunt suspect in shooting of 5 homeless men in NYC, D.C.

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Police hunt suspect in shooting of 5 homeless men in NYC, D.C.
The New York Police Department said one gunman is suspected of shooting two people, one fatally, in Lower Manhattan on Saturday. Images courtesy of NYPD

March 14 (UPI) -- Police in New York City and Washington, D.C., said they are looking for a gunman who targeted homeless men in their sleep, having shot five, including two fatally, this month.

The authorities said the man is responsible for five shootings, three in D.C.'s Fifth District between March 3 and Wednesday and two in Lower Manhattan on Saturday.

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In a joint release on Sunday, the cities' two police departments said they concluded the suspect was the same person based on the "similarity in the modus operandi," commonalities in each shooting, the victims targeted and evidenced recovered.

The most recent shooting was in New York City on Saturday where police responded to a 911 call around 5 p.m. concerning an unconscious and unidentified man in a sleeping bag outside 148 Lafayette St. The man was pronounced dead at the scene having suffered a gunshot wound to the head and neck.

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Authorities said during a Saturday press conference that a preliminary investigation found video of the suspect approaching the sleeping man about 6 a.m. and opening fire before fleeing the scene.

About an hour and a half earlier, a 38-year-old man sleeping at the corner of King and Varick was shot in the right arm.

NYPD Deputy Chief Hank Sautner told reporters the victim woke up screaming, "What are you doing," causing the gunman to flee.

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams said it's possible the only reason he survived was because he woke up.

"Two individuals were shot while sleeping on the streets. Not committing any crime but sleeping on the streets. A total abandonment and betrayal of trust for this action to have taken place in the manner that it did," he said. "The video is chilling to see a cold- blooded act of murder. Homelessness turning into a homicide."

In D.C., the authorities said the last of the three shootings occurred about 3 a.m. on Wednesday, when officers responded to a tent fire in the 400 block of New York Avenue.

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After the fire was extinguished, responders found an unresponsive man who was pronounced dead at the scene. A autopsy ruled cause of death as homicide, the result of multiple stab and gunshot wounds.

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About 24 hours earlier, officers responded to a report of a shooting in the 1700 block of H Street, where they found a man suffering from gunshot wounds. He was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The first shooting was reported about 4 a.m. on March 3. Officers responded to the sound of shots fired in the 1100 block of New York Avenue, discovering a man suffering from gunshot wounds. He was also transferred to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

"Our homeless population is one of our most vulnerable and an individual preying on them as they sleep is an exceptionally heinous crime," NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Sunday in a statement. "We will use every tool, every technique and every partner to bring the killer to justice."

Adams describe the shootings as a "clear and horrific act," while calling on the public who may have information to contact the authorities.

"We need to find this person, and we need New Yorkers to help us," he said.

D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department with its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives branch have offered a combined $45,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspect, while the NYPD has offered a reward of up to $10,000.

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In a joint statement late Sunday, Adams and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reiterated the necessity to bring this suspect into custody before more people are shot.

"It is heartbreaking and tragic to know that in addition to all the dangers that unsheltered residents face, we now have a cold-blooded killer on the loose. But we are certain that we will get the suspect off the street and into police custody," they said.

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