‘I Got an Umbrella and Ambition’: Indictment Reveals Alleged Conspiracy Behind Gay Bar Deaths
In the spring of 2022, two men were drugged and robbed after leaving gay bars in New York. Both died from their overdoses, setting the city’s LGBTQ community on edge at a time when they were already facing an increase in legislative attacks from the right. On Wednesday, authorities announced a grand jury indictment against five people involved in a series of druggings and robberies over the past two years, including murder charges for the overdose deaths of Julio Ramirez and John Umberger.
The defendants, who range in age from 27 to 35, are accused of approaching intoxicated people outside of bars and nightclubs, where, according to the indictment, they would “offer and administer dangerous and illicit substances to them for the purpose of causing their incapacitation,” then rob them and, in two cases, left them to die.
In a public statement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said, “Our entire city continues to mourn the tragic losses of Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger.” He also addressed the fears that had spread following the killings. “In addition to the pain their deaths have caused for their family and loved ones, I know that many other New Yorkers have feared for their own safety when going out to meet up with friends,” he said, and encouraged members of the public to reach out if they believe they’ve been victims of similar incidents.
The defendants, Jayqwan Hamilton, 35, Robert DeMaio, 34, Jacob Barroso, 29, Andre Butts, 27, and Shane Hoskins, 30, allegedly texted their plans to meet up before the robberies, earning them all conspiracy charges. All five are also charged with robbery, and face various counts of identity theft and grand larceny. Hamilton, DeMaio, and Barroso face one count of second-degree murder for Ramirez’ death; Hamilton and DeMaio are additionally charged with Umberger’s murder.
Before they met up to find a victim, the indictment said, the defendants often texted about their plans. The day before they allegedly fatally drugged Umberger, Hamilton and Hoskins messaged each other about going out that evening and discussed the possibility of rain. Hamilton texted, “Yeah I’m still going out idc. I got an umbrella n ambition,” and Hoskins agreed, according to the indictment.
Once a victim was incapacitated, the defendants would then allegedly steal the person’s cell phone, credit cards and other personal identifying information, and use it to take their money from their bank accounts. The indictment refers to four separate robberies, two of which include allegations that the drugging caused the deaths of Ramirez and Umberger.
On April 21, 2022, some of the defendants approached Julio Ramirez outside of the Ritz Bar, the indictment stated, a gay bar in Midtown Manhattan. Less than an hour later, according to a joint announcement by Bragg, New York Mayor Eric Adams, and New York City Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewel, they allegedly left Ramirez incapacitated in a cab, and took off with his cell phone to go shopping. One defendant allegedly stole $3,200 from Ramirez using Zelle; two others used the tap-to-pay feature on Ramirez’ phone to buy sneakers at the high-end streetwear store SoleStage, the indictment stated. Ramirez, meanwhile, died in the cab, the authorities announced. His death, later ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, was caused by overdosing on a combination of fentanyl, P-fluorofentanyl (another synthetic opioid), and heroin, among other substances.
When Hamilton and DeMaio approached Umberger, it was a month later, on May 28, 2022, in the same neighborhood. Umberger was leaving the Q NYC, a gay nightclub two blocks and one avenue away from the Ritz Bar. Less than 90 minutes later, the announcement from authorities stated, they left him incapacitated in an apartment. Like Ramirez, the announcement said, he died from a combination of substances, including fentanyl and P-fluorofentanyl. Defendants stole thousands of dollars from the victim’s credit card accounts and made multiple purchases totaling over $3,500. Umberger’s death was also ruled a homicide.
The indictments come after police have said they were investigating similar crimes at bars, where they said gay people and straight people have both been victimized, according to the New York Times. In March, as the Times also reported, the July 2022 overdose death of fashion designer Kathryn Marie Gallagher was ruled a homicide. Police said it may have been part of a robbery attempt.
Last December, Bragg announced the indictment of Kenwood Allen for murder in what authorities on Wednesday described as a “separate string of fatal overdoses.”