Police identify suspects in fatal drugging of men at New York City gay bars
A police manhunt is underway for three men sought after their indictments for fatally drugging and robbing two men at gay New York destinations.
Jacob Barroso, 30; Jayqwan Hamilton, 35; and Robert DeMaio, 34, were indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on 23 March.
They face charges of murder, robbery, grand larceny, and conspiracy in the killings of John Umberger and Julio Ramirez last year.
The two men are among at least seven people who died from overdoses after they were slipped drugs laced with fentanyl and other substances at bars and restaurants across Manhattan.
NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig explained that the perpetrators would befriend their victims first: “They go up to a male victim, they offer some sort of laced narcotics, and then they rob him of his phone.”
The suspects would then use cash transfer apps on the phone to empty bank accounts or other financial apps to the tune of thousands of dollars, according to police.
The city Medical Examiner deemed the deaths of Mr Ramirez, 25, and Mr Umberger, 33, homicides caused by “drug-facilitated thefts”.
Both victims died from “acute intoxication” caused by a mixture of fentanyl, cocaine, ethanol, and other drugs.
Mr Ramirez, a social worker from Brooklyn, was found unconscious in the back of a taxi on the Lower East Side in the early hours of 21 April 2022 after a night out at Ritz Bar and Lounge on West 46th Street in Hell’s Kitchen.
Mr Umberger, a political consultant from Washington DC, was found dead in an Upper East Side apartment on 1 June after visiting The Q, a night club on 8th Avenue, also in Hell’s Kitchen.
There have been numerous other victims of similar schemes, with police investigating at least 43 incidents that took place all over the city between September 2021 and December 2022, according to The New York Post. Two separate crews of robbers are believed to be behind the crime wave.
In March, Lower East Side fashion designer Kathryn Gallagher, who died on 24 July 2022, was added to the list of victims of death by drug overdose administered by thieves, The Daily News reported.
Chief Essig has stressed in the past that there have been incidents outside of the LGBT+ community.
“We don’t particularly think they’re targeting gay members,” he said. “This is based solely on monetary gain.”
Nevertheless, concern swept the city’s LGBT+ bar scene in late 2022 with local community leaders and venues warning customers to be wary and take measures to ensure their safety.
Only the cases of Mr Ramirez and Mr Umberger have so far been attributed to the three wanted men.
A fourth man, Shane Hoskins, 31, was involved in their cases and has been indicted on robbery, identity theft, grand larceny, and conspiracy charges.
At his arraignment in the Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday, bail was set at $50,000 in cash or $100,000 bond. He is being held on Rikers Island.