A homeless man with a history of violent crime was charged Sunday with several counts of murder and another one of attempted murder in connection with the brutal weekend attacks that left four homeless men dead in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York City.
Police said Randy Rodriguez Santos, 24, bludgeoned the victims with a metal rod while they were sleeping. The men were found with similar head injuries in three sections of Chinatown early Saturday morning and pronounced dead at the scene. A fifth one survived and was hospitalized in critical condition.
The assaults left blood splattered on the doorways and sidewalks where the men had been sleeping, including The Bowery, long known as a nighttime sleeping area for homeless people.
Prosecutors said Rodriguez Santos was shown video of the assaults during an interrogation and acknowledged he was the person in the video. He did not enter a plea at his arraignment Sunday and was ordered held without bail.
Police responded to a 911 call just before 2 a.m. as one assault was in progress. They found one man dead in the street and a second with critical head injuries.
Two witnesses told officers they saw a man wearing black pants and a black jacket repeatedly hitting one of the victims in the head with a metal object, Assistant Chief Stephen Hughes said.
After a search, officers apprehended Rodriguez Santos, who fit that description and was carrying a metal bar that prosecutors said was covered in blood and hair.
Police said he has undergone a psychiatric evaluation. Rodriguez Santos has been arrested at least six other times in the past two years, three times on assault charges.
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His mother, Fioraliza Rodriguez, told the Daily News her son had become such a menace, hitting her and his grandfather, that she kicked him out of the house more than three years ago.
Relatives told the newspaper that Rodriguez Santos started using drugs upon arriving in New York from his native Dominican Republic four years ago, then became violent and stole from the family.
Still, his mother didn’t expect his violence to escalate to this extent.
“I never thought he would kill someone,” she said. “I was afraid of him, though, because he punched me. That’s when I told him to get out of my house.”
Police have not released information on the victims other than to say one of them was an 83-year-old man.
Michael Baldassano, chief of Manhattan South detectives, said there’s no clear reason for the killing rampage.
“The motive appears to be, right now, just random attacks,” Baldassano said, adding there was no evidence yet that the victims were “targeted by race, age, anything of that nature.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New York City homeless killings: Man charged with murder