The New York City Police Department confirmed Monday that it is investigating a string of robberies and assaults that may be connected to the deaths of two gay men earlier this year shortly after they left gay bars in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.
In an emailed statement, Julian Phillips, a spokesperson for the NYPD’s Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information, confirmed that the deaths of Julio Ramirez and John Umberger are being investigated among “several incidents where individuals have been victims of either robberies or assault.” No arrests have been made in Umberger’s death, which remains under NYPD investigation, according to a department official.
In April, Ramirez, a 25-year-old social worker, was found dead in the back of a taxi an hour after being seen leaving the Ritz Bar and Lounge with three unidentified men. His family previously told NBC News that approximately $20,000 had been drained from his bank accounts and that they believed he was drugged.
About a month later, Umberger, a 33-year-old political consultant, was found dead after he and two unidentified men left another popular Hell’s Kitchen gay bar, the Q. The unidentified men transferred about $20,000 out of Umberger’s bank accounts and maxed out his credit cards, according to Umberger’s mother, Linda Clary, who also believes her son was drugged.
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The NYPD spokesperson said the city’s medical examiner is still determining the official causes of deaths for Ramirez and Umberger and added that some, though not all, of the victims in their investigation are believed to be part of the LGBTQ community.
Over the weekend, New York City Council member Erik Bottcher, who represents a swath of Manhattan’s West Side that includes Hell’s Kitchen, released a statement on Instagram saying that his office has been in contact with the NYPD and the New York County District Attorney’s Office regarding the investigation.
“The monsters responsible for these crimes need to be apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he wrote, adding that “significant resources” are being dedicated to the case.
A representative for Bottcher’s office did not immediately provide a comment. A representative for the New York County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.