A New York City subway rider who police say was randomly stabbed to death while he slept on the train has been identified as a beloved soccer player.
Friends of Akeem Loney say the 32-year-old was a gifted soccer player who played for the local league of Street Soccer USA, which helps homeless people through soccer. They called him "Lonny" and remembered him as a great teammate.
"Our team is really devastated. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Lonny was a great guy and an incredible soccer player. We'll miss him a lot," said teammate Reed Fox, who met met Loney in 2016.
The two became close friends, and Fox said that Loney was very active in his Bronx community of Allerton, getting his life back on track and was always looking to help others, especially immigrants who were going through similarly tough times.
"Just sick to my stomach, it's unfathomable. Everybody has doze off on the subway before, to be killed in that senseless way, it's hard," Fox said.
Police sources with knowledge of the investigation into Loney's death say he had struggled with homelessness and was without a place to live when he was stabbed in the neck a few minutes after midnight Sunday morning.
The violent attack took place on a 2 train as it came into Penn Station and police say Loney was sleeping at the time.
Police released surveillance images of the suspect later Sunday morning. They say he was wearing a white baseball hat, black face mask, gray jacket, a white shirt with an orange and black checkered hood, and black pants and black shoes.
The suspect fled the station and has not been located since, having last been seen running away on 34th Street.
"This is an absolutely horrible crime. We are working with the NYPD and will do everything possible to cooperate with their search for this perpetrator, and help make sure our subways are safe," MTA Spokesperson Aaron Donovan told News 4.
In the aftermath of the incident, the transit agency called on the NYPD to keep police visible and present in the subway. The police investigation is ongoing.
Police say the deadly and unprovoked incident came approximately seven hours after a slashing aboard a southbound A train at West 4th Street. Authorities say a man suffered a cut to his face with an unknown object.
There have been five murders on the subway in 2021, compared to three murders in all of 2019 — the year before the pandemic left subways far more empty than ever before.
The MTA said that that the violent occurrences are "not reflective of an overall pattern of reduced subway crime that is at a 25-year-low."