HELL’S KITCHEN, Manhattan (PIX11) — Following a string of incidents, including two men who were drugged, robbed and found dead after leaving LGBTQ nightclubs in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, officials are urging members of the community to be extra vigilant.
It’s an ongoing story PIX11’s Mary Murphy has been closely following for months. The latest victim, John Umberger, was a political consultant based in Washington D.C., who was visiting Manhattan last May. He was seen leaving the Q NYC club with two people and getting into a cab. Umberger was found dead four days later inside the townhouse where he was staying. His mother told PIX11 a toxicology report revealed fentanyl and the powerful numbing agent lidocaine were in his system.
Another man, Julio Ramirez, a 25-year-old social worker, was found dead in the back of a cab on April 21, a short time after getting in the taxi with three men outside the Ritz Bar. Tens of thousands of dollars were cleared from each of their accounts.
Authorities have not determined an official cause of death in both of these cases.
City Council member Erik Bottcher organized an outreach event Thursday to hand out flyers with safety tips.
“We want people to go out and have a great time, but we want them to have the tips to be safe,” Bottcher said. “We’re telling people, ‘Make sure when you go out, your friends know your whereabouts. If you’re going somewhere with someone you don’t know, tell them where you’re going, [and] watch your drink.”
The message: members of the LGBTQ community need to be on high alert after a spate of incidents that appear to target gay men as they leave nightclubs in Hell’s Kitchen.
“I have heard from some people who say they, too, were drugged and robbed,” said Bottcher. “Please contact the authorities; share all the details you can with authorities.”
While Ramirez and Umberger’s cases are tragic, Umberger’s mother told PIX11 at least 14 other incidents of victims who were drugged and robbed but survived are also being investigated by the NYPD.