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3 men fatally shot, execution style, in car near Columbia

June 8, 2012 10:25:14 AM PDT
Police are searching for the gunman who shot and killed three men, execution style, in a car in Morningside Heights.

A passerby found the bodies in the car at around 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

That person saw two men in the front seat hunched over, believed them to be dead and called 911. Both had been shot in the head and neck. The third man was found dead in the back seat behind the front passenger, shot in the left temple.

The victims were identified as 26-year-old Heriberto Suazo, 25-year-old Patrick "Louis" Catalan and 30-year-old Amaury Rodriguez. The trio reportedly has 41 prior arrests between them, 25 of them belonging to Rodriguez. The arrests include charges of assault, robbery, criminal possession of weapons and drug charges.

Police say the body-filled BMW had been parked across from the Knox Academic Building at Columbia University, between Claremont Avenue and Broadway, for no more than an hour.

Authorities believe the shooter had been seated behind the driver.

A friend of one of the victim said no one deserves to die this way.

"I just wish I knew who did this," Francisco Ortiz said. "I want justice for him, so that he can rest in peace, so that his family can continue. Even if it's painful, just want to know who did it, pay their time, and we keep on moving, you know? Even though he's not here, but at least we know who did it. I know he's resting in peace."

Investigators are screening surveillance videos from the area. They say there had been no reports of gunshots and no 911 calls of a disturbance. They say the car's dark tinted windows, which offered the perfect cover for the crime, were unbroken. Also, the license plates on the $100,000 car had been stolen.

Columbia student Gustavo Lacerda says the university alerted students around 8 p.m.

"It says, 'Three persons were discovered between Broadway and Claremont,'" he said. "This is very unexpected. We're in New York City. I guess these things happen."

Police say the victims were not students at either Columbia University or the Manhattan College of Music. They are leaning toward a drug-related motive, though Ortiz says he wasn't aware of his friend being involved in anything of that nature.

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