What to Know
- Police are investigating whether the man accused of beating four men to death over the weekend attacked another man a week earlier
- Police say the victim was sleeping on a bench north of Chelsea Piers when he was beaten with some sort of stick
- The man couldn't identify his attacker, but police say Randy Santos was caught on camera near the scene
The man charged with murder in a bloody rampage that left four men dead may have also attacked another homeless man about a week earlier, NYPD officials say.
Detectives are investigating whether 24-year-old Randy Santos beat a man sleeping on a bench just north of Chelsea Piers a week before Saturday's killing spree in Chinatown.
Authorities say in that case, the attacker wailed on his target with some sort of stick before attempting to throw him in the Hudson River. But officials say the victim was able to fight off the attacker and escaped with minor injuries.
The victim wasn't able to describe his attacker, but police say video from the time of the attack showed Santos about seven blocks away.
The development comes just a day after authorities identified Chuen Kwok, Nazario Vazquez Villegas and Anthony Mason as three of the four victims killed in the Chinatown attacks.
Police said Tuesday that they've identified the fourth victim, but are waiting to notify the 39-year-old's family before releasing his identity to the public.
Three of those men were homeless. The family of Nazario Vezquez Villegas told NBC New York that he was not homeless at all, but rather was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" after missing a bus from Chinatown that was heading to a casino.
No response.— Ken Buffa (@KenBuffa) October 6, 2019
Randy Santos now faces multiple murder charges for allegedly beating four homeless men to death as they slept on the streets of Chinatown. @NBCNewYork pic.twitter.com/bvONxJz9ps
A fifth victim in the rampage survived but remains in critical condition.
A vigil for the slain men was held Tuesday at Kimlau Square Tuesday evening.
Santos, meanwhile, continues to be held without bail on murder and attempted murder charges. Police officials say Santos has a number of past arrests for assault, including one in May for an alleged assault at a Brooklyn homeless shelter.
The attacks come as New York City's homeless population has grown to record levels, and the homeless remain among the most vulnerable residents. In the past five years, an average of seven have been slain each year.
De Blasio launched new homeless outreach efforts early in his tenure in an attempt to move more people off the street and into shelters, but the program has faced challenges. On Monday, his office announced it was stepping up outreach efforts, particularly in Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Advocates for the homeless have argued that that's not enough - and are calling on the city to build more shelters. The city's efforts to do so have dragged due to neighborhood opposition.