Two seemingly isolated and random outdoor murders at the height of the holiday season and of the kind New Yorkers have increasingly feared since the pandemic began were blamed by police officials Monday on a city resident with a criminal record.
James Essig, chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, underscored at a news conference how brief and unplanned were the encounters Roland Codrington is accused of having with two men slashed to death in nighttime killings three days apart, resulting in two murder charges.
It was not immediately clear who would represent Codrington at initial court appearances.
In the arrest announced Monday, Essig said the first killing Codrington was charged with occurred at 1 a.m. on Dec. 19, when 51-year-old James Cunningham, who had just left a bar after drinking a seltzer, was walking several blocks from Union Square when he was approached by Codrington, who was accompanied by his girlfriend.
After a 20-second-long, caught-on-camera dispute, Codrington, 35, slashed Cunningham across the neck with a knife, leaving him to die, Essig said.
At 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 22, Codrington entered a Lower East Side bar with a pit bull and a baseball bat, Essig said. Codrington thought he had been disrespected by employees at the bar a week earlier. He assaulted the bartender and destroyed property, Essig said.
When two customers intervened, they were stabbed with a large knife, incurring non-life-threatening wounds, Essig added.
Afterward, Essig said, Codrington went home, then said he’d “cool off” with a walk through the park.
There, he encountered Dr. Bruce Maurice Henry, 60, stabbing him repeatedly after a verbal exchange in which he became enraged, Essig said. The police official said Codrington left the area with his girlfriend in Henry’s Mercedes Benz. Henry’s body was found at 2:15 a.m. on Dec. 23.
Essig credited three “sharp-eyed police officers” from upper Manhattan with spotting the car at 9:40 p.m. on Saturday and apprehending Codrington without resistance. Codrington, he said, has 12 prior arrests, including four assaults with weapons. Essig said police were investigating whether he’s responsible for other random acts.
Asked about the girlfriend, Essig said she’s involved in the investigation but “hasn’t been charged as of yet.”
He said he couldn’t explain what the doctor was doing in the park or what the argument was about, but added: “You know, for whatever reason he was in the park at that time, he didn’t deserve what he got.”
The killings come at a time of increased anxiety citywide over random violence. Mayor Eric Adams recently announced plans for authorities to more aggressively intervene to help people who need mental health treatment, including forcing individuals off streets and subways and into treatment.
Early this year after taking office, Adams said even he didn’t feel safe riding the subway, despite boosted police patrols.
In April, a man was charged with injuring 10 people in Brooklyn when he set off a pair of smoke grenades and then scattered a barrage of random shots inside a train between stations. In May, a 48-year-old man was shot and killed riding a train between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.
Despite random acts, the number of crimes reported on public transit by September was averaging slightly below pre-pandemic levels, though ridership was also down.