Two men dead of drug overdoses after visiting Hell’s Kitchen gay nightspots were homicide victims
Two men who died of drug overdoses after leaving gay nightspots in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen were homicide victims, the city Medical Examiner said Friday.
Julio Ramirez, 25, and John Umberger, 33, died from “acute intoxication” from a mix of fentanyl, cocaine, ethanol and other drugs, the ME found.
A spokesperson for the Medical Examiner says both men were victims of homicides caused by “drug facilitated thefts.” After they were overdosed, money was taken from both men’s accounts, authorities have said.
The findings were a relief to Umberger’s mother, Linda Clary. Her son, a Washington, D.C. resident and political consultant, was found dead June 1 in an Upper East Side apartment where he had been staying. He died after visiting Q, a Hell’s Kitchen nightclub.
Authorities initially considered Umberger’s death a mere drug overdose — but changed their minds later, compelled partly by the discovery that money was taken from his accounts.
“We are relieved by the conclusions of the Medical Examiner and her final determination,” Clary said in a statement to the Daily News.
“When I consider what people tried to tell me on June 1, 2022, and what I knew to be otherwise, this final determination is a great reminder of the power of perseverance in search of the truth.”
Clary singled out for praise NYPD Detective Randy Rose — “he made the difference,” she said.
Ramirez, a Brooklyn resident employed as a social worker, was found unconscious in the back seat of a taxi on the Lower East Side early on April 21 after he’d visited the Ritz Bar and Lounge on W. 46th St.
“Security is really heavy here,” said a Ritz employee on Friday night. “That’s why we have all the signs out front warning people about pickpockets and thieves. We are taking all precautions. It’s about keeping one another safe.”
Helen Wait, 22, an entrant in The Ritz’s Friday night drag queen contest, said what happened to Ramirez frightened her.
“I’ve felt in every queer space I’e ever in New York City, but that terrifies me,” she said. “I’m from the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, so I’ve never experienced anything like that before. But that can happen in any club in New York City, any time. What do you do?”
Manhattan homicide investigators are probing incidents in which robbery crews allegedly drug their victims and then rob them.
At least seven people had been killed in the incidents, police said at a news conference in November. Not all of the victims have been from the LGBTQ community, cops said.
“This is based solely on monetary gain,” NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said in November.
The robberies were likely carried out by different crews, Essig said. Sometimes, the victims are offered cocaine and marijuana by strangers as they walk out of bars, police have said.
The victims are robbed of their cell phones, and in some cases crooks have used cash apps to transfer money from the victims’ accounts.
Four suspects had been arrested in the incidents by November, police said. It was unclear Friday whether the suspects in those arrests were connected to the Ramirez and Umberger deaths.
Another suspect, Kenwood Allen, 35, was busted Dec. 22 at his Bronx home and charged with murder in the deaths of Ardijan Berisha, 26, on July 30, and Nurbu Sherpa, 29, on March 18.
Allen drugged his unwitting robbery targets with fentanyl, say prosecutors. “Nobody should have to worry that a night out at a Manhattan bar with friends could end in tragedy,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Allen’s arrest.