NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A resident of an East Harlem homeless facility was stabbed to death and nearly decapitated this week – raising new questions about shelter safety.
CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer was demanding answers Thursday, as the NYPD mounted a manhunt for the suspect in the stabbing the night before.
Authorities released two images of a person of interest in the stabbing – identified as Anthony White, 21 – on Thursday afternoon.
Police said a 62-year-old man who was White’s roommate was stabbed in the neck inside the Boulevard Homeless Shelter at 2027 Lexington Ave. just before midnight Wednesday.
The victim was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS, police said. So far, his identity has not been released.
The shelter for men where the stabbing happened has a walk-through body metal detector, and security staffers also have hand scanners.
But White was allegedly sneaked a knife into the shelter and used it to kill his roommate, cutting so deep –police sources said – that the older man was nearly decapitated.
At an unrelated event, Kramer asked Mayor Bill de Blasio what it says about security in a shelter where a metal detector is in place.
“This is deeply disturbing. We will get this perpetrator,” de Blasio replied. “But you’re exactly right. This is a shelter that has metal detectors, that had its own private security, that had all the things we need to make sure shelters are safe. Something went wrong. We’re going to do a full investigation to find out how this was possible. But we’re very committed to going forward, in that shelter and every other shelter, to make sure they have whatever it takes — the technology the personnel — to keep people safe.”
But Robert Mascali, a former deputy commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services, said the city has plenty of warning about shelter condition.
“It’s horrible. It really encourages people to stay out of shelters,” Mascali said. “Providers have been complaining for many years about inadequate hiring, staffing and funding for security.”
Ironically, in his new budget that begins July 1, the mayor called for giving the Boulevard Shelter $200,000 for more staff.
But there is another question about the shelter. It is in the same building as a store that sells drug paraphernalia – stuff that is easily accessible to the homeless residents. Kramer asked de Blasio whether a shelter should be in the same building as a head shop.
“I want to be careful because I don’t know the circumstances, but I want to make sure the shelters are safe for everyone involved,” de Blasio said.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer put the city on notice about shelter safety just a few weeks ago. He found that during Fiscal Year 2015, there were 783 attacks on residents and staff – something he said is acceptable.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said this was the first murder in a homeless shelter that he can recall.