NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A homeless man accused of killing four other homeless men in Lower Manhattan is now facing murder charges.
Randy Santos, 24, was formally charged Sunday with four counts. He was also charged with attempted murder and unlawful possession of marijuana and is being held about bail.
He allegedly beat five homeless men with a metal pipe early Saturday morning, killing four of them, CBS2’s Reena Roy reported.
Officers said they spotted Santos shortly after with the murder weapon still in hand, a large metal object covered in blood from his victims, who were found dead on Bowery and on East Broadway.
“I’m just shook that anybody would even go out and murder four innocent people that are just sleeping on the street,” Chinatown resident William Shao said.
Investigators believe the attacks were random. A friend who did not want to be identified told Roy he saw Santos at his family’s Bronx apartment building hours before the rampage.
“He was just off, that’s it. He was like looking spaced out. I never seen him like that. I noticed something was wrong. I said, ‘Yo, are you okay?’ And he just walked away,” the friend said. “He looked like he was losing it for a couple of days. He looked like he was very stressed out.”
He said the suspect moved here from the Dominican Republic a few years ago, worked in construction and cleaning services, and lived with his parents until they kicked him out.
“They were having arguments. Mother was calling cops on him to get him out of the apartment,” the friend said.
He said when Santos started sleeping under the staircase in the building or in the abandoned home next door, adding his family tried to get him psychiatric help, and even took him to the hospital a few months ago.
“He’s a very good friend of mine. He’s not a bad person from what I know of. He plays with my kids,” the friend said. “I think what happened was he was very stressed and homeless and he didn’t have nowhere to go and having a lot of problems in his mind.”
The surviving victim was taken to a local hospital in critical condition.
People in Chinatown were trying Sunday to wrap their heads around the shocking incident.
“Terrible, terrible. It’s not easy to swallow pain. It’s not easy. That could happen to me, too,” said Simba Bossir, a friend of one of the victims.
“I think [Mayor Bill] de Blasio said he had a handle on it, but I think he has to help people on the street who don’t wanna go inside. They seem to be getting the worst end of the stick,” Natty Selassie added.
The horrifying crime is shining a light on the homeless crisis in the city. Residents have been calling on officials to fix the problem for some time.
“I think it’s horrible. Homeless, it’s an issue. We walk past it. We see it,” Manhattan resident Jared Lewis said.
Earlier this year, in its “State of the Homeless” report, the Coalition for the Homeless said under de Blasio’s administration the number of people living in city shelters has reached record highs, with 64,000 in January.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Services told CBS2 the agency has launched the most comprehensive street outreach program in the country, taking more than 2,200 people off the streets.
But New Yorkers want to see even more improvement to prevent anything like this from happening again.
“You see them around. They take shelter in the subways,” one person said of the homeless. “I think these people aren’t getting the help they need.”
Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-8477 or for Spanish, 1-888-577-4782. Tips can also be sent to the NYPDTips Twitter account or submitted online at NYPDCrimeStoppers.com.