Detectives are looking for a man seen on surveillance tapes who they believe shot three men to death in a car near Columbia University on Thursday evening, police said.
The victims, all with Manhattan addresses and ranging in age from 25 to 30, had arrest records for marijuana possession, assault and other crimes, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Friday. They were found dead about 6:30 p.m. inside a BMW after a passerby noticed their bloody bodies in the car and notified police, investigators said.
"The investigative premise here is that these were marijuana dealers engaged in [ripoffs] and [facing] possible retaliation," said Browne, explaining the theory investigators are pursuing.
Cops are looking for a male Hispanic shooting suspect who was seen on surveillance cameras walking east on 122nd Street, where the victims were found, toward Broadway and then going north, Browne said.
The suspect also is seen on the surveillance tapes taking off his shirt and continuing on dressed in a pristine white shirt.
Cops have found the discarded shirt, Browne said.
Browne said it was believed the shooter sat behind the driver when he opened fire with a revolver of unknown caliber. All of the victims were Hispanic. The car was parked on West 122nd Street, across from the Manhattan School of Music, Browne said.
Found dead in the vehicle were Amaury Rodriguez, 30, who was in the driver's seat; Luis Catalan, 25, in the front passenger seat; and Heriberto Suazo, 26, in the rear passenger seat, police said. Rodriguez sustained three gunshot wounds to his neck and shoulder, Catalan was struck in the chest and in his left temple, and Suazo was hit in the back of the head, Browne said.
At Suazo's home on 167th Street, Pedro Hernandez, a cousin, said the family was in disbelief.
"It's shocking. It's a big hit to my family," he said. "We used to live in the same house."
"He [Suazo] was supposed to come over and get a haircut with me today like we do every week," Hernandez said.
As he spoke, two weeping women embraced on a stairway in the apartment building. One of them said, "I'm so sorry."
Relatives of Rodriguez and Catalan had left their apartments and weren't around, neighbors said.
Igor Kossov contributed
to this story