Randy Santos, the 24 year-old man accused of bludgeoning to death four sleeping homeless men in Chinatown early Saturday, had been charged in an escalating pattern of violence over the last year, authorities said.
In a briefing Monday with reporters, NYPD commissioner James O’Neill said that Santos had six open cases that included the Saturday killings, which appeared to be random acts of brutality.
Santos, who is homeless himself, was charged Sunday with four counts of second-degree murder, one count of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the attacks on the homeless who slept on the street or sidewalk around Chatham Square. One victim survived being pummeled by a metal bar but was in critical condition late Monday, said police.
Three of the victims were identified by the city medical examiner Monday: Chuen Kok, also known as Kwok, 83, Nazario A.Vazquez Villegas, 55 and Anthony L.Manson, 49. All three, and the still unidentified victim, suffered head and brain trauma and fractured skulls, officials said.
In light of the attacks, City Hall on Monday announced stepped up outreach to the homeless in Chinatown, including mental health counselors and substance abuse experts. O’Neill also announced sthe NYPD would increase its homeless outreach.
According to police, Santos last November had a series of arrests, including one for attacking a worker at Manhattan employment agency, biting the man on his chest and grabbing his neck. Earlier in the year, Santos was charged with fondling the backside of a 19 year-old woman who tried to hold a door open for him in Jamaica Hills, Queens, said police.
In another incident, Santos was accused of beating a man in a Brooklyn homeless shelter, said police.
The recent killings were shocking in their violence and number. Chinatown had not seen a case of multiple homicides since the gang wars of the 1980s and 1990s, said an official with the Lin Sing Association, a Chinese-American family association.
In the aftermath of the bloodshed, residents turned the location outside of No. 2 Bowery where Kwok died into a makeshift memorial for him. Fruit, votive candles, flowers and small change adorned the marble ledge where he used to sleep. Dried brown blood was still spattered on the wall and a small tape recorder played solemn Chinese music. His photo was taped to a store front window.
A Chinatown resident who would only identify herself as”Kim” showed up in tears and prayed at the memorial.
Kim said she noticed Kwok recently on the street and gave him food and told him to go to the homeless shelter.
On Friday , Kim said she last saw Kwok on Friday and gave him a roast pork bun, water and some money. When she last saw him he was putting the money in his pocket.
“He was very kind and nice,” said Kim, who said that Kwok came to the U.S. from Hong Kong about 20 years ago from Hong Kong and had worked in restaurants. He refused her offer to buy him some lotion for itchy skin.
On Saturday, Kim said that a friend told her a homeless man had been killed in Chinatown.
“I hoped it wasn’t him, but it was him,” said an inconsolable Kim.”It broke my heart.”
Kwok’s death occurred just steps away from Doyers Street, a meandering street infamously known decades ago as “bloody angle.” Chinatown tongs, fraternal associations, in the early 20th Century, fought pitched battles on Doyers , as did early Italian gangs. Today, Doyers Street is seasonally closed to vehicle traffic and is a pedestrian byway .