Deaths of two men robbed after trips to gay bars sparks homicide investigation

The New York Police Department is investigating the deaths of two men who died shortly after nights out at gay bars this year.

One man, Julio Ramirez, died in the backseat of a taxi in April, and John Umberger was found dead in an Upper East Side townhouse in May, according to The New York Times.

Both men’s families later found out thousands of dollars had been taken from their bank accounts, but not until after the deaths were first recorded as drug overdoses.

A Police Department spokesperson told The New York Times they did not know if Ramirez and Umberger were targeted because they were gay – or if they believed they, and other nonfatal attacks in nearby areas, were related.

The cases of both deceased men each include them being with a group of men leaving gay bars before being found dead.

Ramirez’s brother Carlos told The Times Julio entered the taxi where he died with three men who left him there.

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Umberger’s mother, Linda Clary, said a detective had told her of surveillance footage showing two men leading her son into a car outside of the bar he was at, Q nightclub in Manhatten.

Clary was originally told by police her son was robbed on the street and then did drugs at home. She showed them Umberger had money missing that led to the homicide investigation opening.

There have been arrests connected to similar robberies in Manhattan but the Police Department did not respond to The Times’ questions about whether they were linked to the deaths of Ramirez and Umberger.

A number of other men have come forward about being drugged at gay bars in New York City and then robbed, sharing similar stories of thousands of dollars going missing.

All of the men said they were drugged by people they did not remember meeting, The Times reported.

It was highlighted that despite drug testing, date rape drugs do not remain in the body system for very long.

That includes GHB, which is recreationally used by some gay men and, according to the US Justice Department, is not included in most drug and toxicology tests.

The deaths come at a time where anti-LGBTQ+ views are becoming more visible in New York and across the US.

VERS, a bar in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, the same area where Ramirez had been, had a brick thrown at its window four times over October and November.

The bar’s owner, David DeParolesa, told NBC News he felt like the US was in a moment of “emboldened anti-gay, anti-trans resurgence”.

“This is the manifestation of that.”

In response, New York governor Kathy Hochul called on New York State Police to increase its surveillance and protect the LGBTQ+ community and others most at risk of hate crimes.

“Here in New York, we will not tolerate violence or bigotry toward any community. We stand united against hate – today and every day.”