Simultaneous raids at seven locations nabbed Roberto Nunez, 30, about 8:15 a.m., hiding in a Bronx basement where his brother lives, police said. He was charged with multiple counts of murder, including one count in the first degree.
The evidence against Nunez includes the gun used in the slaughter, subsequently bought by an undercover cop as part of the casework, and his DNA, recovered from a shirt ditched close to the crime scene, police said.
“Detectives assigned to this case did a masterful job, relentlessly working it to apprehend a suspect who initially appeared so calm, collected and out of reach,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
As darkness settled over the 26th Precinct stationhouse, blocks away from Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, police braced for chaos as Nunez was led out in handcuffs, bound for Central Booking.
An emotional group of about 10 family members of his alleged victims had gathered there, crying and arguing with police, who had set up barricades to contain them.
Nunez, wearing a white T-shirt, white shorts and black flip-flops, his hands and feet shackled, bowed his head as the relatives screamed at him in Spanish, calling him “wretched.”
Cops had to hold them back. Some collapsed to the ground, exasperated.
“Everyone is destroyed by this,” said a woman who identified herself only as Dinora, the aunt of Heriberto Suazo, one of the men slain in what appears to be a classic example of drug-related violence.
Three men killed with six bullets in a matter of seconds inside a flashy $88,000 SUV. The only detail of the crime that didn’t fit was where the killing was done: The BMW was parked legally on Claremont Ave., next to the Manhattan School of Music and Knox Hall, the latter an academic building that is part of the Ivy League institution.
On June 7, about 6:27 p.m., a man walking by the BMW noticed the horror inside: Suazo, 26, riding shotgun, was shot once in the head; Amaury Rodriguez, 31, the driver and BMW’s owner, was shot three times; and Luis Catalan, 25, had bullets pierce his left temple and arm.
Police said Catalan had company in the back seat — the killer had sat behind the driver.
His work done, he exited the ride carrying a white bag, and quickly ditched his shirt. A surveillance camera captured his movements, police said.
Police investigate the scene after three Manhattan men were found shot to death inside a BMW in Morningside Heights on June 7.
But so beyond apprehension did the suspect at first appear that police sources previously told the Daily News that they believed he may have been a professional hitman hired from out of the country.
After all, police had released to the media a clear surveillance camera image of the gunman, but a positive tip was at first elusive, the sources said. But those who knew the gunman, the sources said at the time, may have just been scared to inform against him, a possibility that meshes well with the working theory as to motive that investigators have held throughout: The three men were reputed drug dealers, who were suspected of robbing rivals, and were likely killed to settle a score.
Smart at first as fugitive, Nunez kept moving from place to place to avoid capture, police sources said.
But at one hideout, someone he knew saw him with a gun and went to police, who then arranged for an undercover officer to buy the firearm from another man, the suspect’s pal, the sources said.
Investigators later matched the weapon to the triple murder.
“He got sloppy,” one police source said. “He walked away calmly like a professional hitman, but then he got sloppy with the gun.”
By the time detectives had the evidence to arrest Nunez, however, they no longer knew where he was, and feared he may have fled the country. They hit all the possible addresses Saturday morning, including one in Pennsylvania, the sources said.
An address on Morris Ave. in the Concourse Village section of the Bronx proved to be the jackpot. Nunez surrendered without a struggle, but afterward wasn’t talking to investigators. Police believe surveillance video shows Roberto Nunez leaving the murder scene.
Nunez, whose family is from the Dominican Republic, grew up with two brothers and two sisters in an apartment building on W. 127th St., about a mile from the crime scene. He moved out a year ago after falling behind on rent, neighbors said.
“They were some good kids, greeted you every time,” a former neighbor, Michael, 46, who declined to give his last name, said of Nunez and his siblings. “He wasn’t like the regular hoodlums.”
Beatriz Rodriguez, 29, the wife of Amaury Rodriguez, seethed with anger at the accused, noting that their 2-year-old son is still waiting for his father to return home.
“I want justice for my husband and everyone else,” she said outside the 26th Precinct stationhouse. “They were humans; they weren’t animals.”