The bodies were discovered inside a luxury 2012 BMW sedan around 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Morningside Heights, apparently shot in the head and neck and soaked in blood, police said.
“This was a classic triple assassination,” said another source. “The shooter had to be a cool customer to kill three men so close to him. He was quick and deadly.”
It’s believed the gunman was seated behind the driver.
The BMW’s license plates do not match the registration but the car has a temporary tag typically given to new vehicles, detectives said.
A passerby noticed the victims inside the car and told an officer nearby. The scene was just across from a Columbia campus building on a leafy stretch of West 122nd Street between Broadway and Claremont Avenue in front of the Independent Manhattan School of Music.
The General Grant National Memorial, colloquially known as Grant’s Tomb, is just a block from the crime scene.
Though the victims are not believed to be affiliated with either school, Columbia issued an email alert to the neighborhood.
“Well, the email told me that three people died,” said student Gustavo Lacerda.
Mysteriously, no bullet holes were discovered on the body of the car, police said.
Police are now tracing the plates on the car and checking surveillance video, trying to see whether the victims were killed elsewhere then driven to Morningside Heights and abandoned.
“Oh my God, he’s dead. Kill me, kill me. I hope it’s a lie,” wailed a woman claiming to be the pregnant girlfriend of one of the victims.
Detectives believe the car hadn’t been parked for more than one hour when the bodies were found. Police sources said they think the killer walked north up Broadway.
The BMW’s hood was still warm when police responded.
The identities of the victims have not yet been released.
The investigation is ongoing.
UPDATE: The victims were identified as Amaury Rodriguez, 31, Heriberto Suazo, 26, of Washington Heights, and Patrick Catalan, 25, of the upper East Side. Investigators believe the shooting is drug-related, one police source said, noting that the homicide has all the earmarks of a narcotics hit. No weapon was recovered.