A 40-year-old homeless man was arrested on Wednesday for murder and attempted murder after he stabbed three homeless people in Manhattan, including one fatally, police said. The men were all sleeping outside when they were attacked over the past week.
The man, Trevon Murphy, 40, who has a history of arrests and who a cousin said suffered from mental illness, was spotted by a retired corrections officer around 6.45am Wednesday near a park in Harlem, at West 128th Street and St Nicholas Avenue, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Mayor Eric Adams said.
Retired corrections officer Ruben Arias said he was driving a bus when he saw a man sitting on the bench at the bus stop wearing the same neon-colored sneakers and a black hoodie with the Innocence Project logo that the man in the photos police circulated on Tuesday had been wearing.
Mr Arias, 55, told the driver to let him off and approached two police officers nearby. “I said, ‘Look, I just spotted the man walking around stabbing people,'” he said. Officers, he added, did not believe him, so he called 911.
Mr Arias, who was a correctional officer for 21 years and worked at Rikers Island, said he stood guard about a foot from Mr Murphy because he didn’t want him to go anywhere.
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Police quickly arrived, arrested Mr Murphy without difficulty and found a knife in his trouser pocket, Deputy Chief Joseph Kenny said. Mr Murphy ‘gave statements to investigators identifying himself in still images related to the attacks“, Chief Kenny said.
The president of the city’s correctional officers’ union, Benny Boscio Jr., praised Mr. Arias’ quick thinking. “Even as retirees, our officers maintain a deep commitment to keeping our city safe, which is exactly what retired Corrections Officer Ruben Arias did today,” he said. .
Police say Murphy approached a man sleeping on a bench near the Hudson River in the West Village on July 5 and stabbed him in the abdomen; the man died at Bellevue Hospital.
On July 8, police say Mr. Murphy stabbed another man who was sleeping on a bench at Madison Avenue and East 49th Street in Midtown. And early Monday, they said, he stabbed a third man who was sleeping in a playground at East 95th Street on the Upper East Side. The two men who survived were in stable condition as of Tuesday, police said. Police did not provide a motive for the attacks.
A cousin of Mr Murphy, Tameka Wilkerson of Knoxville, Tennessee, said Mr Murphy had had ‘mental issues’ for years and was sometimes paranoid, ‘heard voices’ and ‘saw people’.
Growing up in Knoxville, Mr Murphy, the son of a hospital nurse, “loved to play video games, tell jokes and loved sports, just an ordinary teenager”, Ms Wilkerson said.
She said he had worked as a patient transporter at a hospital before mental illness caught up with him and she had not been in contact with him for several years. She and several other family members had learned that he was dead.
New York police said there was a warrant out for Mr. Murphy’s arrest in Tennessee for breaching probation for drug trafficking.
While it’s unclear when he moved to New York, he was a client of the city’s homeless services department for the first time in 2018, according to an employee of a homeless service provider. who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized. discuss Mr. Murphy’s case.
In April this year, Mr Murphy was charged with assaulting a sleeping housemate at a homeless shelter near La Guardia Airport. According to court documents, Mr Murphy’s roommate ‘was awakened by a blow to the face’ and saw that Mr Murphy was the only other person in the room. Mr Murphy was released without bail and was due back in court next week on charges of assault.
“This man shouldn’t have been on our streets,” Commissioner Sewell said.
Mr Murphy stayed at a shelter in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in April and May this year, the homeless services worker said.
Homeless people with severe mental disorders have been charged in a string of recent high-profile attacks, including the fatal shoving of a woman in front of a subway train in January by a man with schizophrenia who had bounced back from jails city, hospitals and streets for decades.
The killing brought to light a broken system of emergency psychiatric care for the homeless in New York in which hospitals repeatedly discharge patients without stabilizing them, and it prompted officials to roll out a slew of programs designed to increase accountability and prevent people from falling through the cracks.
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Adams had presided over the opening of a facility in the Bronx for people in mental health crisis, a “support and connection center” staffed with mental health providers and intended to be an alternative to bring people in the hospital or arrest them. .
“The response to a mental health crisis is not a public safety response,” the mayor said. “It’s a health response, and changing that dynamic is crucial.”
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