NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The search is on for a pack of thieves who police say tied up an elderly couple and ransacked their apartment in a violent home invasion robbery that left a 91-year-old man dead and his 100-year-old wife in the hospital.
Police said Waldiman Thompson and his wife, Ethlin, were targeted by a group of thieves who followed them into their ground floor apartment on Decatur Street around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Ethlin returned to her home on Thursday, and police hope she can help find the criminals who tied her and her husband up before robbing them.
The couple owns the building and collects rent from tenants. Sources tell CBS2 the thieves were likely searching for a large sum of cash in the form of payments that had yet to be deposited to the bank. Police believe it was likely an inside job and someone was tipped off about the money.
“It’s just very shocking. It’s nothing that you would expect, and we know that my aunt, she’s a very strong lady even though she’s a hundred years old,” Jerlene Thorne said.
Once the suspects left, Ethlin wiggled free from her restraints and called police.
“The officers entered the apartment and found her 91-year-old husband tied up and lying on the floor and he was unresponsive,” NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Kemper said.
“When I came out I saw them bringing him out on a stretcher and they were pumping his chest,” neighbor Lawrence Reynolds said.
Video from the scene showed Mrs. Thompson inside an ambulance, being treated at the scene for minor injuries. Police at the time said she didn’t know her husband was dead.
The couple’s family returned to the crime scene Wednesday night, devastated and still in shock.
“Oh my god, Waldiman Thompson he doesn’t deserve to die like this and this brutality that they did to him, it’s terrible,” said the victim’s niece, Karlene Grose, who last saw her uncle at a family gathering over the weekend. “Whoever did something like this, they deserve to be punished real hard.”
Ethlin’s nephew George Johnson, was still visibly upset by what happened to the family.
“Mr. Thompson, oh lord he’s a nice man, he’s a nice man. I cook for them sometimes. Bring food from the church for them,” he said as he began crying.
Family members who visited with Ethlin in the hospital said she delivered a surprising message.
“She said she forgives whoever done this, and I don’t know how she has the courage to say that, but I admire her for that,” Doreen Hunter said.
“She’s hurt, we’re all hurt, but for her, she just believes in her lord and savior, so that’s just really important to her right now,” Jerlene Thorne said.
Neighbors said the couple had lived in their brownstone for decades.
“They’re so old and when you see them they look timid,” said neighbor Denise Allen.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case. He is also reaching out to the community to help pay for the victim’s funeral.
“There are no words to properly capture the outrage our community is experiencing over the death of Waldiman Thompson,” Adams said. “This godly and big-hearted couple suffered a truly godless and heartless attack that has struck a blow deep in the soul of Brooklyn. Their tragedy is a tragedy for us all.”
Late Thursday, the New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled that Waldiman Thompson had died from heart problems that were triggered by the incident — specifically, sudden cardiac death following home invasion with robbery and restraint in a person with hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
The manner of death for Waldiman Thompson was ruled to be a homicide.