This Day In History: September 22

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Glenn Dunn is shot and killed outside a Buffalo supermarket by a man carrying a gun concealed in a paper bag. His murder was the first in a series of strange attacks in both upstate New York and New York City. Within two days, three other young men were murdered. One was killed near Niagara Falls, the other two in Buffalo. Although the mysterious shooter dropped .22-caliber shell casings at one of the shootings, police did not have much other evidence.

A few months later, on December 22, six men were stabbed while walking on crowded New York City streets by an attacker who was labeled by the press the “Midtown Stabber.” Four of the victims died from their wounds. Because the victims were all Black and Hispanic, officials believed that the killer was motivated by racial hatred. When two additional African American men were killed in Buffalo by a .22-caliber sawed-off rifle, authorities began to connect all of the killings.

Investigators were still not much closer to cracking the case when a newly enlisted soldier at Fort Benning, Georgia, slashed an Black soldier in January 1981. The attacking soldier, Joseph Christopher, then bragged to a nurse about killing 13 men in New York. When law enforcement officials checked into Christopher’s past, they found that he had been on a three-day furlough from the army at the exact time of the New York City stabbings. In addition, the end of a sawed-off .22 rifle barrel was found at his family’s hunting lodge, although the murder weapon was never recovered. In addition, a misfired bullet that matched the .22 casings was found at his parents’ house in Buffalo.

In April 1982, Christopher was convicted of the Buffalo area murders, but the conviction was later overturned because the judge had refused to permit expert testimony about Christopher’s mental stability. In 1985, Christopher was sentenced to life in prison for the New York City killings. He died in prison in 1993.