New York City police are searching for an assailant who they say stabbed three homeless men while they were sleeping, killing one of them.
CNN  — 

The knife-wielding assailant who authorities believe had stabbed three homeless men in New York City while they slept, killing one of them, has been arrested, police and city officials announced at a news conference Wednesday.

The alleged attacker, identified as Trevon Murphy, 40, believed by investigators to also be homeless, was taken into custody after a resident spotted him walking down a street in Harlem, wearing the same clothes as in the surveillance photos released by the NYPD on Tuesday.

CNN is attempting to identify an attorney for Murphy.

Police say the motive is unknown, however all victims were homeless and sleeping at the time of the attacks.

NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Murphy should not have been at large in the city at the time of the alleged knife attacks.

“He was already convicted in Tennessee and given probation, which he violated and he was wanted on an outstanding warrant for that violation. Additionally, Mr. Murphy was released on his own recognizance after he attacked a roommate in Queens back in April. He was due back in court on July 22 just days from now,” Sewell said.

The NYPD has recommended charges including counts of murder, attempted murder and assault in connection to the alleged attacks, according to an NYPD news release.

Since his arrest Murphy has made statements to investigators identifying himself in still images related to the attacks, NYPD Chief Joseph Kenny told reporters.

He was also in possession of a knife in his pants pocket when taken into custody, Kenny said.

Murphy is speaking to investigators, but officials declined to share any information about potential motives for the alleged attacks.

Tennessee officials plan to extradite Murphy to execute an active warrant for his arrest related to a narcotics charge, Kenny said.

In April, Murphy allegedly assaulted another homeless person while they were sleeping in a Queens shelter where he was also staying at the time, according to Kenny.

String of attacks began July 5

The first attack happened on July 5, when a 34-year-old man, sleeping on a park bench, woke up with a pain in his stomach, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said. After the attack, the man walked across the street, and a passerby called 911. The man was taken to a hospital, but he did not survive the attack.

Surveillance video showed a man wearing a black hoodie, bright neon sneakers and a gray backpack. It shows the suspect riding a Citi Bike the victim had used around the block, and then returning to stab the man, police said. The assailant also took the victim’s backpack and ditched it nearby, police added. The fatal stabbing wasn’t caught on camera.

On July 8, surveillance video caught the attacker staring at a 59-year-old man who was homeless for 30 minutes while he was sleeping, Essig said. Then the assailant put on a mask, stabbed the man and walked away, he added.

The third victim was stabbed early Monday morning while lying on a basketball court in a park near East 93rd Street and FDR Drive, Essig said. When the man woke up around 3:30 a.m., he said he felt a punch in his side and chased the attacker for a short distance but didn’t catch up because of his wound, Essig noted.

The attacks on people experiencing homelessness fit a similar pattern seen in March when victims who were homeless were targeted in a string of violent attacks.

Authorities in Washington, DC, arrested Gerald Brevard, who they have accused of shooting five homeless men – killing one – in five incidents spanning DC and New York City.

Overall crime in New York City increased by 31% in June 2022 when compared to the same month last year, according to the statistics provided by the police department. Meanwhile, murders for June dropped, with 26 this past June, down from 38 in June 2021, the statistics showed.