New Yorkers should be cautious amidst rising drug and robbery pattern in NYC bars, including some LGBTQ+ venues
On social media today (November 29), rumours began to circulate about a ‘serial killer’ in New York City targeting gay men at queer venues.
ABC7 reports that, of at least 40 people who have been drugged and robbed at New York City bars over the last year, seven of those victims have died.
However, police told the outlet that no one fraction of the population is being targeted in these attacks, confirming that the number of similar cases extends to different genders and sexual orientations also.
Per the report from ABC7, NYPD Chief Kenneth Corey said that the criminals are simply looking to steal as much money as possible from their victims, suggesting that the targets aren’t being secretly drugged, but rather that the drugs are being offered to them.
“They are actually approaching people in the bar, striking up a conversation, and offering to do drugs with them,” said Chief Corey. “After that, their valuables are stolen.”
“You’ve got a stranger offering you something, you don’t even know what it is, certainly not something you should be doing,” he added.
Although the medical examiner reports are still to be released, police told the outlet they believe some of the overdoses could be due to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine and can be laced with other drugs, creating devastating results.
“Now we’re in the age of fentanyl, where things are very dangerous,” said retired NYPD Chief of Detectives, per the outlet.
Police say they believe that two groups of people are behind the upturn in robberies of this kind. One of the groups is believed to be more violent than the other and is physically assaulting victims before robbing them.
Of the total 40 known victims, seven people have died, and a number of those deaths were a result of drug overdose.
While, earlier this month, NBC News reported that gay New Yorkers had been coming forward with accounts of similar attacks, all with an eerily identical sequence of events to the deaths of Julio Ramirez, 25, and John Umberger, 33, earlier this year.
The exception being that these people survived their ordeals and were able to share their story.
In April, Ramirez (above), a 25-year-old social worker, was on a night out in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, but was later found dead in the back of a taxi, only an hour after he was seen leaving the Ritz Bar and Lounge with three unidentified men.
The four men entered a nearby taxi, police said after viewing CCTV in the area, but Ramirez was alone in the backseat at 4.10am, when the taxi driver approached a police officer 3 miles away, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to say that his passenger – Ramirez – was unresponsive.
Julio was pronounced dead at the scene. His family later told press that approximately $20,000 had been drained from his bank accounts, adding that that they believed he had been drugged.
Read Julio’s story by clicking here.
One month later, in May, John Umberger (above), 33, a Washington, DC, political consultant died under similar circumstances to Ramirez.
Umberger had been on a night out on May 28 and visited The Q NYC, a queer venue featuring DJs, drag shows and stand-up comedy across several floors.
He had gone to the club alone following dinner with friends at Tao Downtown in Chelsea.
Per New York Times, Umberger ordered and cancelled a cab at 3.15am and was last seen about an hour later, on a surveillance camera, with three unidentified men in a car outside the Upper East Side townhouse where he was staying.
The footage from a nearby building shows Umberger getting out of the car with two of the men, who both entered the townhouse with him, but left without him after about 45 minutes.
His credit cards had been stolen together with his cellphone. The cards were used to buy liquor close to a homeless shelter, while items were also purchased at a Foot Locker.
$25,000 had then reportedly been drained from his accounts using various cash-related apps on his phone, including Venmo and PayPal.
‘I can’t be quiet anymore. Word needs to get out, especially in the gay community, that they are targeting gay men. This same group of killers have drugged, robbed and murdered countless young gay men in New York,’ Linda Clary, Umberger’s mom, told the New York Post.
Both Ramirez and Umberger were gay, both their phones were missing when their bodies were discovered, and both of their bank accounts had been emptied of tens of thousands of dollars.
Eerily, they were also both last seen with three unidentified men in the hours before they died.
It is not yet known if the deaths of Ramirez and Umberger are related to either each other, or to the 4 people reported by ABC7, detailed above. But they all involve drugs, a robbery, and all happened in NYC.
The two, separate, people NBC News spoke with both said that their personal experiences fit the pattern of what happened to Ramirez and Umberger, with the exception that they each survived.
“It sounded so eerily similar to what happened to me,” Tyler Burt, 27, told the outlet about Ramirez’s death. “I was like, ‘I’m lucky to be alive.’”
Both Burt and the second person, an unnamed student at New York University, told the outlet that they believe they fell victim to a larger string of robberies and assaults, currently being investigated by police.
Both said they felt like they had been drugged ahead of the robbery, which is what the families of both Ramirez and Umberger have suspected. If true, that would contradict NYPD Chief Kenneth Corey’s suspicions (above) that the victims willingly accepted drugs before being robbed.
NYPD told the outlet that the city’s medical examiner is still to determine the official causes of death for both Ramirez’s and Umberger.
There have been no arrests and police would not confirm whether Burt’s or the student’s cases were a part of their ongoing investigation.
NBC7 reports that six people have so far been arrested and police are searching for at least two more.
Stay safe out there, New York LGBTs!