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Arrests Made in Roofie-Robbery-Murder Spree at New York City Bars

John Umberger and Julio Ramierz
John Umberger (L) and Julio Ramirez

The crime spree made headlines after Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg was accused of refusing to prosecute those who allegedly killed two gay men.

Police have arrested two men in connection with a string of robberies and murders of men who were picked up at bars in NYC.

Kenwood Allen, 33, and another unnamed man were arrested and charged with the drug-induced deaths of two men, although police said more charges are expected as their investigation continued.

Police alleged the two men were part of a crew who drugged and then robbed unsuspecting men after they had left various Manhattan bars beginning in March of this year, according to a report in the New York Post.

Allen was charged with the March 18 death of Nurbo Shera and the July 30 death of Ardijan Berisha. At least 24 other men have been drugged and robbed, and sometimes killed, under similar circumstances, and police have long suspected a crew was targeting inebriated bar-goers in the area.

"They target their victims leaving bars, offering drugs in some cases, then either through force or when the victim passes out, they remove jewelry, money, high-end watches and phones from their victims," James Essig, NYPD chief of detectives, said at a press briefing announcing the arrests.

Allen was officially charged with two counts of second-degree murder, three counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, two counts of second-degree robbery, and two counts of second-degree assault.

The unsolved murders of two gay men suspected of falling prey to the same crew made headlines last month when the mother of one of the victims, Linda Clary, accused Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg of dragging his feet in bringing the murderers of her son, John Umberger, to justice.

"I can't be quiet anymore. Word needs to get out, especially in the gay community, that they are targeting gay men," Clary told the NY Post last month, later adding, "This same group of killers have drugged, robbed, and murdered countless young gay men in New York."

Umberger, 33, of Washington D.C., was drugged, robbed, and killed after a night visiting gay bars in Hell's Kitchen on May 28. He was last seen with a group of men exiting a taxi and his body was found on June 1. Another gay man, Brooklyn social worker Julio Ramirez, 25, was found dead in the back of a taxi after he was drugged and robbed in the area on April 21.

While at least two of the victims were gay, Essig said Allen and his alleged conspirators were opportunistic and did not target gay men because of their sexual identities.

"We don't particularly think that they're targeting gay members," Essig said at the press briefing. "This is based solely on monetary gain."

NYPD Lt. Detective Dave Leonardo concurred, saying the motive was not hate-based.

"We believe that the perpetrators are targeting individuals that are coming out of the bars late at night because they're intoxicated," Leonardo said, adding they believe the men were offered narcotics that were laced with a date rape cocktail of drugs including lidocaine, fentanyl, and cocaine.

While Allen and the other unnamed man were not charged with the murders of Umberger or Ramirez, a spokesperson for the Manhattan DA did say additional murder charges and arrests will be forthcoming.

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