Local Leaders Warn LGBT Community About Online Dating

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Local city and community leaders are warning members of the LGBT community to be on alert after three gay men were found murdered recently in New York City.

All three men were middle-aged and strangled. There were no signs of forced entry in any of the cases and police believe all the victims met their killers online.

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David Rangel, 53, was found dead in his Jackson Heights apartment on Jan. 26, according to the New York City Anti-Violence Project. Rangel was killed in his own apartment and was found stuffed under a couch.

On Feb. 9, police found Joseph Benzinger, 54, dead inside a hotel room at the Crown Motor Inn on Queens Boulevard, police said.

“He used to be here before and he was a very good man — always said ‘Hi, bye,’ everything,” said hotel employee Maria Ortiz.

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On Tuesday, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman, that “It appears that the cases are not related with different suspects involved.”

Browne also said the suspects in the Jackson Heights incident are black, while the suspect in the incident on Queens Boulevard is either white or light skinned.

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Earlier, City Council Member Daniel Dromm pointed out the similarities in both deaths.

“Both people who were murdered were gay. There was no forced entry,” Dromm said. “The victims were strangled or choked to death.”

David Rangel, Charles Romo (Facebook)

David Rangel, Charles Romo (Facebook)

“There are people who have been known to go online and prey on LGBT people because they think that we’re a vulnerable community,” Dromm said.

Officials said if you do meet someone online, there are simple steps you can take to keep yourself safe.

“Let people know where you are going to meet them and meet in a public place,” said the Anti-Violence Project’s Ejeris Dixon.

Police are also investigating a third death. According to AVP, Charles Romo, 48, was found by his housekeeper on Jan. 28 in his Hamilton Heights apartment. He was found in his underwear and was tied up and beaten.

Dromm said the Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating each case.

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