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Crime What the Suspect in the Chinatown Murders Says He Remembers From That Night

12:15  18 november  2019
12:15  18 november  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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Randy Santos says he remembers walking through Chinatown at 2 a.m. looking for cans and bottles to get the deposit money. He remembers police officers motioning him to stop. He remembers feeling perplexed when they handcuffed him . He claims he cannot recall bludgeoning four men to death with

In The New York Times Opinion Section "A defining feature of Ameri can inequality is that the nation’s most pressing social challenges are disproportionately concentrated in black communities," Patrick Sharkey What the Suspect in the Chinatown Murders Says He Remembers From That Night .

Randy Santos says he remembers walking through Chinatown at 2 a.m. looking for cans and bottles to get the deposit money. He remembers police officers motioning him to stop. He remembers feeling perplexed when they handcuffed him.

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The suspect in Saturday's fatal attacks on sleeping homeless men in Manhattan's Chinatown neighborhood has been charged with four counts of murder , according to NYPD Detective Ahmed The suspect was identified as 24-year-old Randy Rodriguez Santos, who is also homeless, police said .

“I remember him standing in the living room,” she said . “ He was wearing a tank top and he was Mourners at a Monday morning vigil held for the four murdered homeless men.Credit Gabriela Bhaskar For other meals, he took leftovers from people in the neighborhood who looked out for him .

He claims he cannot recall bludgeoning four men to death with a piece of metal.

“I was looking for bottles for cash,” Mr. Santos said in an interview at Rikers Island, where he was jailed awaiting trial for murder. “I needed the money because I was living on the streets and at an abandoned building. That’s all I remember.”

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Mr. Santos’s claim of a memory lapse, whether truthful or a convenient ruse, did little to clear up the mystery surrounding the motive behind one of the most horrific quadruple murders in New York’s history, a seemingly senseless attack on random homeless men sleeping on sidewalks.

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Police said Randy Rodriguez-Santos, 24, who is also homeless, wielded a 15-pound metal pipe and apparently attacked the men randomly. He is charged with murder , attempted murder and unlawful possession of marijuana.

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The case has highlighted cracks in the legal and social services systems that allowed Mr. Santos to roam the streets, even though he had committed several violent assaults before.

His family has blamed mental illness and drug abuse for his violent outbursts, including an attack on his own grandfather. His lawyer, Arnold Levine, did not return a call for comment. Mr. Santos has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors have a strong case. Mr. Santos, 24, was holding a bloody, 15-pound metal bar when he was arrested, and security cameras from local shops recorded him as he sneaked up on the men while they slept and bashed in their heads, according to a criminal complaint.

Shown the video, Mr. Santos told investigators he was the attacker, according to court records.

‘I want to get out of here and have a future’

Before a short interview this week, Mr. Santos strolled to the visiting room decorated with colorful murals of flowers more reminiscent of an elementary classroom than a lockup.

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In a 2010 radio interview with KALW, Hu said in the 1990s he targeted the Oakland Chinatown gang the Wo Hop To, a case that Ma, also known as Mark Ma, was an early suspect in a 2013 double murder of suspected Chinese underworld gangster Jim Tat Kong and his girlfriend, Cindy Bao Feng

Neighbours said they saw officers and other emergency workers emerging in floods of tears from the apartment as they probed the horrific scene. Police were also said to be shocked by the state of the family's living conditions in the rundown flat.

“I don’t understand the charges or why I am here,” Mr. Santos said. “No one has explained them to me.” He blamed a language barrier for his confusion; he speaks only Spanish.

The night of the murders, Mr. Santos said, he recalled making his way downtown from an abandoned building in the Bronx where he had been staying. But the rest of the night, he said, was a blur.

Mr. Santos, wearing a tight brown jail jumpsuit, folded his hands and spoke softly and matter-of-factly about his goals once he is freed. He seemed unaware that if he is convicted he faces life in prison, and talked matter-of-factly about his goals once he is freed. “I take every class and activity they offer me here,” he said. “I want to educate myself. I try to stay active, occupied.”

a man and a woman standing in a room: Nazario A. Vazquez, 54, who was killed in the attacks, had befriended homeless men in Chinatown while waiting for buses, his daughter said.© Provided by The New York Times Company Nazario A. Vazquez, 54, who was killed in the attacks, had befriended homeless men in Chinatown while waiting for buses, his daughter said.

He added: “I want to get out of here and have a future. I want to marry. I want to have children.”

‘I knew he was going to hurt other people’

Mr. Santos’s stated desire to better himself seems at odd with his recent history. Over the last two years, Mr. Santos was given several chances by the criminal justice system to turn his life around. He had avoided long stints in jail and had been offered counseling, despite charges that he groped or assaulted several people.

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Andrea Dazio, a 48-year-old investment banker from Milan, said he knew Mr. Santos would be a danger to others if he were not jailed.

Mr. Santos had attacked Mr. Dazio on Dec. 28, 2017, as he rode a subway train with his wife, Mirjana, and two children, breaking a bone under Mr. Dazio’s eye and opening cuts that required 22 stitches to close.

“I saw what he could do, such violence, such an explosion of rage,” Mr. Dazio said. “Nobody took care of this guy when they had the time.”

Mr. Dazio said Mr. Santos started staring at him and his family when they got on an F train at Avenue U in Brooklyn. “I can still picture his glance, so menacing,” he recalled.

For nearly an hour, Mr. Dazio took playful photos and videos of the family’s ride to Manhattan, incidentally capturing Mr. Santos sitting next to his wife, and two sons.

“He was mumbling and he was looking at me, but I really didn’t care,” Mr. Dazio said. “We were just smiling. We were on vacation.”

As the train approached Union Square, Mr. Santos abruptly stood up and yelled, “Why are you talking about me?” Mr. Dazio said. Then, Mr. Santos punched Mr. Dazio in the face, causing him to collapse on the seats. “I was bleeding all over the car, like I was hit by a truck,” Mr. Dazio said.

Mr. Santos grinned and sat down again, as Mr. Dazio’s wife took the boys to the other side of the train, Mr. Dazio said.

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It took four police officers to arrest Mr. Santos after the train had stopped, Mr. Dazio said. Hours later, a judge set him free.

“They treated it like a fight between brothers fighting for a piece of cake,” Mr. Dazio said. “How could they let him walk free? I knew he was going to hurt other people.”

Mr. Dazio said he told prosecutors he was willing to return to New York to testify against Mr. Santos but was never called. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said the case was dismissed and sealed.

A violent history

The attack on Mr. Dazio was not an isolated incident.

Around the same time, Mr. Santos’s mother had kicked him out of her Bronx apartment after he assaulted his grandfather during an argument, his family said. An aunt said she later tried to persuade Mr. Santos to go to a drug rehabilitation clinic — he had been depressed and abusing drugs that made him paranoid, she said — but he balked at the idea of being unable to leave the facilities when he wanted.

A year ago, Mr. Santos was arrested on charges he choked and bit a 55-year-old man at a Manhattan employment agency. Four days later, he was accused of punching a man riding the Q train, officials said.

In March, a 19-year-old woman told the police he groped her buttocks during a stay in a Queens shelter. Then in May, Mr. Santos, in a fit of rage, punched a 24-year-old at Brooklyn shelter, officials said.

Mr. Santos is scheduled to respond to the groping charge and a Brooklyn fare evasion theft charge in December and January, officials said.

In most cases, he was released because the victims either declined to press charges or stopped cooperating, law enforcement officials said.

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In two cases, a judge gave him a chance to avoid jail time if he enrolled in counseling programs. Mr. Santos, however, never signed up for the programs and, after he skipped a court date for the groping charge, warrants were issued for his arrest.

Police officers then picked Mr. Santos up on a warrant over the summer. He was sent to Rikers Island but released in August after the Bronx Freedom Fund, a charity that posts bail for poor people charged with low-level offenses, put up $1,000.

A week before the Chinatown rampage, Mr. Santos attacked a 38-year-old homeless man sleeping in a park on the riverside near the High Line, beating him with a stick and trying to throw him over a barricade and into the river, the police said.

Asked about his previous arrests for assault and his decision not to attend court-ordered counseling, Mr. Santos shrugged.

“I’ve had a complicated life,” he said. Then he ended the interview.

‘It took four murders to keep him behind bars’

Maria Guadalupe Vazquez, 32, said her father, Nazario A. Vazquez, 54, who was among the four men killed in Chinatown, might still be alive today if Mr. Santos had been convicted in one of the previous assaults.

“It took four murders to keep him behind bars,” Ms. Vazquez said.

Five years ago, Mr. Vazquez had left his wife and five children behind in a small hamlet about 40 miles southeast of Mexico City to come to live with his daughter on Staten Island. He found work at restaurants and cleaning boats — “any place that would hire him,” his daughter said.

But he also befriended homeless men in Chinatown while waiting for buses that took him to out-of-state casinos, she said. It was not unusual for him to disappear for days at a time.

“Some days I would call him worried, ‘Dad, where are you?’” Ms. Vazquez recalled. “He would say, ‘Don’t worry daughter, I’m O.K.’”

Before his murder, Mr. Vazquez had made plans to return his home in San Juan Tehuixtitlán in December. “He was tired,” Ms. Vazquez said. “He said, ‘Hija, I lived all the years that I were meant to live here. It’s time to go back.’”

In October, Mr. Vazquez was buried in his hometown.

“My mother and brothers could not wait for my father to return,” she said, weeping. “Just not like this, not in a casket.”

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