The NYPD is still searching for the person responsible for the horrifying, apparently random Sunday night stabbing of two children in the elevator of their East New York housing project. 6-year-old PJ Avitto was killed in the attack; his 7-year-old friend, Mikayla Capers, was badly injured and is still hospitalized in critical condition. The police also believe that the suspect may have been the person who fatally stabbed 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland while she was walking through the same area on Friday night.
PJ’s father, Nicholas Avitto, told the New York Post and CBS 2 that a drawing of the suspect resembles an “unstable” man who he’d seen in the neighborhood before. “I see that sketch and I recognize that individual. I’ve seen him in the hallway,” he said. “That’s the guy, he’s homeless, he might be in the shelter sitting back, laying back, thinking nothing’s gonna come his way. Police need to check it.” The cops confirmed that they were “scouring” mental hospitals and homeless shelters for the suspect, described as a heavyset, 6-foot-tall black man between the ages of 25 and 35. “We certainly believe the person who did this might have some mental illness,” said NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks. He also called the possibility of the suspect attacking someone else “a major, major concern.” (PJ’s grandmother, Anita Edgerton, issued a heartbreaking plea to her grandson’s killer: “Please don’t hurt no more children,” she said. “Please just come in, come in.”)
“Two young children in an elevator with no place to escape, nothing at all, and some character gets on and just starts stabbing them? Residents have every right to be concerned,” added NYPD chief Bill Bratton. Because PJ and Mikayla’s NYCHA complex lacked surveillance cameras (even though the city earmarked money to have them installed), police hoping to identify the suspect have to rely on the sketch and grainy footage from the scene of Copeland’s murder. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has been left on high alert. “Before this happened, I used to go places by myself,” a little boy told CBS 2. “But I can’t do that anymore.” ”