NEW YORK (WPIX) — Police charged a man dubbed the “subway slasher” on Sunday in connection with four stabbings on the A-line in less than 24 hours, according to the NYPD.
The NYPD deployed hundreds of additional officers to the subway system on Saturday in response to the stabbings, two of which were fatal.
Rigoberto Lopez, 21, of Brooklyn, was questioned by police Saturday night and charged on Sunday with one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and two counts of attempted murder in the second degree, according to the NYPD.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Saturday there were several common denominators linking the stabbings, including the “proximity of the crimes as well as all four occurring on the A-line.”
The first deadly stabbing was reported to police around 11:30 p.m. Friday. Officers called to the Mott Avenue-Beach 22nd Street station in Far Rockaway, Queens, discovered a man with numerous stab wounds to his neck and torso sitting on a bench inside the train, according to the NYPD. The unidentified victim was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Then around 1:15 a.m. Saturday, a 44-year-old woman was found with multiple stab wounds lying under a bench inside an A train stopped at the West 207th Street-Broadway station in Inwood, Manhattan, according to the NYPD. She was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead, authorities said.
About 15 minutes later, a 43-year-old man was stabbed at the 181st Street A line station, police said. He was taken to a hospital in stable condition and underwent surgery, according to authorities.
A fourth stabbing, which also took place at the 181st Street A line station around 11:20 a.m. on Friday, may be connected as well, police said. The 67-year-old victim told investigators a man walked up and stabbed him in a random, unprovoked attack, according to authorities.
All of the victims are believed to be homeless, police said.
In response to the attacks, Shea said 500 officers were deployed to the subway system. Some of the officers were reassigned and others were brought in on overtime, Shea said.
The police commissioner called the surge in officers a “significant increase” in police presence throughout the subway system.
Lopez, whose last known address is a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, was picked up by officers near Audubon Avenue and West 186th Street in upper Manhattan, police said.
Investigators identified him as a suspect while reviewing surveillance video near the 181st Street station, according to the NYPD. He was wearing the same clothes from the video when he was arrested, police said.
Lopez was taken to central booking Sunday afternoon. He has several prior arrests, including alleged assault of a police officer, according to the NYPD. Police said they’re aware he has had prior psychiatric evaluations.
The stabbings are the latest in a string of violent crimes in the city’s transit system.
A joint statement released Saturday by interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg and TWU Local 100 union President Tony Utano called for an immediate increase to the number of NYPD officers on subways.
“The recent horrifying attacks in the subway system are outrageous and unacceptable. Every customer, and each of our brave, heroic transit workers deserve a safe and secure transit system,” the statement said. “We have been calling on the city to add more police to the system, and to do more to assist those who desperately need mental health assistance. The time for action is now. We are demanding that additional resources be put into the system to address this challenge immediately. Our hearts go out to the victims, as we cooperate with active investigations and urge prosecutors to pursue maximum penalties for perpetrators.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement released on Saturday that violence on the subway, or anywhere else in the city, would not be tolerated.
“Safe and reliable transit is critical to our city’s recovery, and we’ll continue to do all we can to keep our subways safe for straphangers across the five boroughs,” de Blasio said.