The conditions were weeks apart and they looked alike: two young men in New York City’s famous gay bar. Each of them left with at least one mysterious person. They were all found dead. Both their bank accounts were emptied.
And they may not be the only ones.
More gay New Yorkers are coming forward for the first time with accounts that share a familiar resemblance to the unexplained deaths this summer of Julio Ramirez, 25, a social worker, and John Umberger, 33, a political consultant.
The biggest difference so far: They survived.
NBC News spoke with two people who described horrific events that seem to fit the pattern of what happened to Ramirez and Umberger.
“It’s like what happened to me,” Tyler Burt, 27, said of Ramirez’s death. “I was like, ‘I’m lucky to be alive.’
Burt and a student at New York University believe they are involved in a series of robberies and assaults that the police are investigating. Their stories also echoed the horrifying detail that Ramirez and Umberger’s family only suspected — that they felt like they had been drugged before being robbed.
The New York City Police Department said the city medical examiner is still determining the cause of death for Ramirez and Umberger. They were not arrested. Police would not confirm whether Burt’s or the student’s complaint is part of their investigation.
The NYPD issued a statement on Friday reiterating that police and the district attorney’s office are investigating “several incidents where individuals have been either robbed or assaulted, ” of which some but not all are members of the LGBTQ community. NBC News could not confirm whether the men’s experiences were related to the string of robberies and attacks.
Meanwhile, the gay community in the nation’s LGBTQ capital is waiting for answers.
John Pederson, 55, said he was robbed in a similar situation in 2018 and, combined with recent reports, it shocked him.
“Kashishi is like, am I crazy?” Pederson said. “Women know this as something that is happening. I don’t think gay men would ever suspect that this could be done to them.”
No memories and emptied bank accounts
In December, Burt – who reached out to NBC News on social media after recent reports of two deaths – was walking home from a night out with friends when he stopped at The Boiler Room, a popular gay bar in Manhattan’s East Village , one. the last drink itself. Sitting at the bar was the last thing Burt said he remembered before waking up in his apartment the next morning confused.
Burt said he woke up lying on his bed with his clothes and shoes on and his phone was missing. He then noticed that his laptop, iPad, headphones and wallet were also missing. This may interest you : FAS Holds Information Session on Changes in Ownership Review Process, Says Gay | News. Using his work laptop, he discovered this was the beginning of what would amount to nearly $15,000 worth of stolen goods and money. The person or persons who robbed him accessed his bank account, overdrawn it to pay off credit cards and used them to buy three new iPhones that morning.
Burt, who reported the incident to the police the day after the encounter, said he believed an assailant used his unconscious face to open his iPhone and bank accounts using his Face ID number. He said that he believed that the person or persons who robbed him also slipped him some kind of drug, where they knocked him unconscious until he was speechless.
“I don’t think I’m drinking nearly enough to have a memory. Also, that’s never happened to me before,” Burt said, adding that he drank thirteen to four times a day. four. “I’ll go out and come home and be like, ‘Oh, gosh, I don’t remember coming home,’ or, ‘I don’t remember going out,’ or something like that because I drank too much. , but I don’t remember anything. No I remember even one thing after drinking this thing, which has never happened to me before in my life.”
The father of a New York University student, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity for fear of putting his son in danger, said his 21-year-old son also believes he was attacked by other men. the same reason on April 8, less than two weeks before Ramirez’s death.
He said his son, who also asked not to be named, told him he was leaving The Q bar in Hell’s Kitchen, Umberger’s last bar, with three men he met that night. The four of them, he said, planned to go back to his son’s house to meet a friend of his who was there. The man – who was linked to NBC News by Linda Clary, Umberger’s mother – said his son and his son’s friend believed they had been drugged at some point after returning to the house with the three unidentified men. The father said his son and his son’s friend believed they were drugged because of the suddenness and recklessness involved in the robbery.
When the two crossed paths, the father said, his son’s phone went missing, his bank account was emptied using a cash app and his credit cards were maxed out. In total, the man said that a lot of money and goods about 5,000 US dollars were stolen from his son. Similarly, Burt, the college student’s father said his son believes the attackers used his face to open his iPhone and bank account using Face ID. His son’s friend, he said, her purse was stolen. The college student’s father said that his son had filed a police complaint and that the matter is still under investigation. NBC News was not able to personally verify the son’s account.
Pederson, a freelance computer consultant who contacted NBC News on social media after the recent reports of the two deaths, said on November 16, 2018, he also had a similar encounter. Pederson said he was on his way home from Tribeca after attending a large private party, where he had three to four drinks over the course of several hours. While he was alone and hailing a taxi, he said that suddenly and out of character he was robbed on the street.
He regained consciousness for a while and woke up to a man shaking him violently in the back seat of an unfamiliar car, saying, “What is the PIN number?” What is a PIN number? If you just give us the PIN number, we will take you home,” he said. The next thing he remembers is being dropped off at his front door before waking up in the morning with his face covered in blood and his bank account being wiped.
Pederson said he doesn’t feel very drunk before his sudden blackout, and he doesn’t get drunk in the morning, which he says is common for him on the rare occasions he drinks alcohol.
‘You would not want to wish this on anyone’
Although upset, Burt, the NYU student’s father, and Pederson said they look back on what happened today and are thankful they didn’t kill. Read also : League Of Legends developer Riot Games faces censorship in some countries after releasing the first gay black hero.
It took Burt about a month after his meeting before he was able to enjoy sleeping in his room again, he added that the situation made him seek treatment.
“It took me a while to process what really happened to me and how horrible it was,” Burt said. “And then seeing the things that come out – like this boy who died in May – it really could be me. It’s just a little bit of what happened to me.”
“There’s a lot of ‘what if,’ I go through in my head, which is, you know, not fun to think about,” he said.
Less than two weeks after the college student made the allegations in early April, Ramirez’s body was found in the back of a taxi. His body was found an hour after he was seen leaving the Ritz Bar and Lounge with three unidentified men, according to the NYPD. His family previously told NBC News that approximately $20,000 was withdrawn from his bank account.
About a month later, Umberger died after he and two unidentified men left a popular Hell’s Kitchen gay bar, The Q. The unidentified men pushed around $20,000 from Umberger’s bank account and racked up multiple credit cards, according to Clary, Umberger’s mother. .
“The pain and the sadness and the fear is like nothing else,” Clary said. “You wouldn’t want to wish this on anyone.”
Burt, Pederson, Clary and the college student’s father all said they felt at first the NYPD didn’t take their cases as seriously as they’d hoped and, at times, were unresponsive.
“He seems reluctant to do something that requires a little work,” Burt said of the detective on his case. “I felt like he had no priority at all and I was the one following this guy, time after time and I got nowhere.”
The father of the college student who was allegedly robbed said police stopped returning his phone calls until recently, months after the deaths of Ramirez and Umberger.
New York City Councilman Erik Bottcher, whose district includes Hell’s Kitchen, told NBC News in a phone call that his office has been in contact with the NYPD and the Manhattan district attorney’s office every week since reports emerged in May about and the death of Ramirez. He added that his office asked to see that the necessary materials were dedicated to conduct the investigation.
“It’s shocking and infuriating that people in New York City are being victimized in this way,” Bottcher said. “Whoever is doing this should be prosecuted.”
While the NYPD has only confirmed that it is looking into “several” other related cases, Clary said she has been told there are at least a dozen other cases included in the investigation. She spoke highly of the current investigator on her son’s investigation. But her message to police and government officials is clear: “People, do your job.”
She added, “Thank you for the work you are doing, but I need you to work harder, and I need you to work harder for the sake of your capital and the citizens who depend on you.”