NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The homeless man accused of killing four other homeless men in Lower Manhattan remained jailed without bail Monday.
Randy Santos, 24, faces four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, along with unlawful possession of marijuana, after he allegedly beat five homeless men with a metal pipe early Saturday morning, killing four of them. The fifth victim remains in critical condition.
In response to the shocking incidents, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new measures to address the homeless problem in the area where the killings took place.
Starting Monday, mental health outreach teams were to be sent to Chinatown to conduct psychiatric and substance abuse evaluations and provide other social services to assess the needs of the most vulnerable on the streets.
More officers will also patrol the neighborhood.
Corey McFadden says he’s been homeless for six weeks, spending several nights on the streets of Manhattan. After the killing spree, though, he says he will now stay at the Bedford-Atlantic Shelter in Brooklyn.
“I would never sleep on the streets. I would never sleep on the streets ever again. That’s actually a fear for me now,” he said.
McFadden says he’s trying to keep an eye on vulnerable street people and happy to see the stepped-up police response.
“Homelessness has continually grown in New York and it’s clear that we lack a holistic system to address this issue,” Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou said. “Violence and cruelty against our community members is abhorrent and unacceptable. To think that these murders happened in our community, to five of our most vulnerable community members is devastating.”
There are calls for more affordable housing, more supportive housing and better mental health services.
De Blasio says yes, but…
“We have a lot to do on all those fronts, but this appears to be a very particular, horrible, individual tragedy,” he said. “As we’re continuing to investigate, we do not see something with larger ramifications.”
A community vigil was held Monday morning in response to the killings. Stephen Banks, the city’s social services commissioner, was among those paying respects to the victims. He promised to fix the safety net that failed the victims.
“More outreach, more safe haven beds, more supportive housing, all those things that are on the way, but they weren’t quick enough for these individuals,” he said.
There was mourning and anger in Chatham Square, where pizza boxes, flowers, half-empty bottles of beer and candles made up a growing makeshift memorial.
A handwritten letter from the owner of SoHo’s Champion Pizza was left at the scene. It read in part, “As a human, I feel so heartbroken for what has happened. As a former homeless man, I know the struggle that all you guys went through every day.”
Later, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes caught up with the owner, Hakki Akdeniz.
“We pass by them and we don’t want to see them,” Akdeniz said. “How can you hurt the homeless people? They’re less powerful. I don’t know … it’s just, they’re innocent people.”
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The medical examiner determined that all four victims died from blunt impact and head trauma, with skull fracture and brain injury. Three of the four have now been identified. They are 83-year-old Kwok Chewn, 55-year-old Nazario Vazquez Villegas and 49-year-old Anthony Manson.
Chewn, who hailed from Hong Kong, was said to be a fixture in the community.
“I spoke to him Friday afternoon. I can’t believe he was killed that night,” one person told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.
“I met him when I was little girl. I just recently found him in the street,” Kim Mui, a friend of the victim, said.
“We heard he had once lived on East Houston Street and had a job in which he flew a great distance for work, mostly likely working at a restaurant and not returning home for weeks,” another person said.
Omar Muhammad said he would spend time with two of the men every morning.
“They were jolly old men living in misery,” Muhammad said. “Yeah, we were all friends.”
According to acquaintances, Santos showed signs that he could snap.
“He used to say, ‘You’re going to die. You’re going to die.’ So people knew the guy was bugged out,” Muhammad said.
A friend who did not want to be identified told CBS2’s Reena Roy he saw Santos at his family’s Bronx apartment building hours before the rampage. Santos had become homeless after being kicked out of his parents’ apartment.
“They were having arguments. His mother was calling cops on him to get him out of the apartment,” the friend said. “He looked like he was losing it for a couple of days. He looked like he was very stressed out.”
Apparently Santos’ family tried to get him psychiatric help, Cline-Thomas reported.
“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 49-year-old victim who survived the attack is in the hospital and expected to recover. Police said the suspect admitted that he was the person in the surveillance and then asked for a lawyer.
Police continue to say these were unprovoked attacks.
“We don’t have anything to suggest at this time there was any prior history between these individuals,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said. “It appears to be random, but it is still pretty preliminary in the investigation.”