Arrest in robberies and murders of gay men who were drugged

New York City police said on Sunday a man has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with a series of murders and robberies in Manhattan gay bars that have terrorized the city’s LGBTQ community and drawn attention to the use of drugs to to kill people, to rob. and kill.

The man, Jacob Barroso, 30, of New Britain, Connecticut, was arrested Saturday and charged with the murder of Julio Ramirez, a 25-year-old social worker who died of a drug overdose last April in what the medical examiner described as a “drug-induced facilitated theft”.

Mr. Barroso was also charged with larceny, grand larceny and identity theft, but he was not charged Sunday night, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.

The deaths of Mr Ramirez and a second man, John Umberger, a 33-year-old political consultant who was fatally drugged and robbed in May, sparked fear among the city’s LGBTQ community and sparked wider conversation about similar drug raids that have existed for a long time. plagued the city’s nightlife.

Mr. Ramirez had left The Ritz, a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen, with a group of men, and his body was left in the back of a cab on the Lower East Side shortly afterward, his family said.

Mr. Umberger went missing after visiting the Q, another Hell’s Kitchen bar, and was found dead five days later. The coroner said both were killed by similar drug cocktails containing fentanyl.

The families of Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger also discovered that money had been taken from their financial accounts, using facial recognition technology on their phones.

The Ramirez family did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday. Linda Clary, Mr Umberger’s mother, said in an interview on Sunday that the case was “moving in the right direction”, even though no one had yet been charged with her son’s murder.

“I am very grateful that progress is being made on the case,” she said. “I am relieved that some of the suspects have been arrested and I hope the latter are also arrested.”

The past weeks several people have been charged in connection with the robberies and murders of Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger. Mr. Barroso is the third person arrested and charged in connection with the robberies in those cases, and in both cases he is the first to be charged with murder.

Last June, another man, Andre Butts, was arrested and charged with using Mr. Ramirez’s credit card hours after he died to buy two pairs of Nike sneakers. Mr. Butts paid $544.38 for it at a store in SoHo. His attorney, Terrence J. Grifferty, did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Last week, prosecutors charged Shane Hoskins with robbery, identity theft, grand larceny and conspiracy. His lawyer, Sarah Batool Musa, did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Hoskins of being “part of a crew” involved in drugging, robbing, and murdering Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger.

Much of the indictment against Mr Hoskins remained sealed on Sunday, but the portion that was made public described how prosecutors believe the crew carried out their attacks.

According to the indictment, the attackers would target people who drink in bars and “administer dangerous and illicit substances to them with the aim of causing their incapacity to work”.

They then stole phones, credit cards, and other property, “once those individuals were further intoxicated and incapacitated to the extent that their ability to perceive events diminished, and they could no longer remember or relate those events.”

According to internal police documents reviewed by The New York Times, investigators have identified two similar robbery patterns targeting bars across the city.

The documents stated that the attackers appeared to be motivated by money, not bias, and that they targeted bars that cater to both gay and straight customers.

Nevertheless, the crimes have had a particular impact on the city’s tight-knit LGBTQ community, whose members tend to frequent, or are at least familiar with, a relatively small number of bars, whose names are often scattered all over the world. city ​​are known.

The crimes also took place against a dark backdrop for the community, which has faced an outbreak of monkeypox and an increasingly hostile national political climate over the past year.

The murders of Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger were part of the same robbery pattern, according to the documents. The victims were mostly drunk men who were robbed of their mobile phones. The perpetrators then used the mobile phones to transfer large amounts of money to their own bank accounts.

In its coverage of the murders of Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger, The Times interviewed more than a dozen other men who were drugged in gay bars in Manhattan, then robbed and left for dead, sometimes in their own ransacked apartments.

It remains unclear what means is used to render victims incapacitated for work. But several men speculated that they had been drugged with GHB, a so-called “date rape drug” readily available in New York and used recreationally in small doses by some gay men. Medical experts say rape drugs only stay in a person’s system for a short time and are therefore difficult to detect on tests. Most routine drug and toxicology tests do not screen for GHB at all, the Justice Department said.