And while the suspect, 24-year-old Randy Rodriguez-Santos, undergoes a mental evaluation, the city is pledging to step up its homeless outreach.
New York City officials say they will be dispatching mental health outreach teams and increasing the number of homeless outreach teams who have access to psychiatrists and substance abuse resources in the wake of the deadly attacks.
The five victims were caught completely off guard as they were struck while they were sleeping on the streets.
Four of them died at the scene, while the fifth person remains in the hospital.
Three of the victims have been identified as 55-year-old Nazario A. Vazquez Villegas, 83-year-old Chuen Kok, 49-year-old Anthony L. Manson. The fourth victim has not been identified at this time.
A friend described Kok as an immigrant from Hong Kong who was "gentle" and "polite."
The medical examiner said all four victims suffered severe head trauma and skull fractures. All of their deaths have been ruled a homicide.
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Investigators say they found Rodriguez-Santos with a 15-pound metal pipe, believed to be the murder weapon.
"What happened over the weekend shakes the conscience of who we are as New Yorkers," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "We are sending experts to the neighborhood to provide support during this difficult time, and will continue to assess how to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future."
The incident is putting an increased spotlight on the homeless, who many say are usually overlooked.
"While our city mourns this horrible and senseless loss of life, I want to remind New Yorkers that the city has experts available to provide support for anyone facing mental health challenges," First Lady Chirlane McCray said. "We're committed to providing mental health services for all New Yorkers, and our mental health outreach teams stand ready to provide support to this community and anyone seeking help."
HOME-STAT teams will engage homeless New Yorkers, according to de Blasio, who will have access to:
- Licensed clinicians who work with clients on the streets, provide on-going case management, and assess each individual for immediate risk/crisis during each encounter
- Psychiatrists who perform psychiatric evaluations on the streets, as needed, helping understand and how better to meet the individual needs of each street homeless New Yorker
- Substance use resources, including the ability to immediately connect individuals to detox and other rehabilitation programs-and, are trained in naloxone administration
Flowers and candles marking the locations where the victims were found.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at NYPDCrimeStoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
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