UPPER EAST SIDE — Police told residents this week that they had caught the prime suspect in a string of break-ins on the Upper East Side — but did not mention the man hanged himself more than a month earlier at the precinct stationhouse, the same venue where the community meeting was taking place, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Edward Soto, 51, of the Bronx, was found hanging in his cell at the 19th Precinct about 10 a.m. Jan. 26 after he was arrested for attempted burglary, the NYPD said. He was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital and pronounced dead, police said.
More than a month after his death, which police said triggered an ongoing Internal Affairs Bureau probe, officers from the 19th Precinct told locals attending a precinct council meeting Monday at the stationhouse that they believed they had cracked the case of multiple fire-escape burglaries.
Officers did not name Soto at the meeting or mention he died in their custody. An NYPD spokesman later confirmed Soto was the man discussed at the meeting and that he had died in police custody.
Residents at the meeting asked officers about Soto's death, unaware he was the suspect in the burglaries being discussed. In response, NYPD officers said they couldn't talk about the incident.
Police said plainclothes officers from the 19th Precinct caught Soto red-handed after they observed him testing the front doors of several buildings along First Avenue to see if they were unlocked. Soto then entered one building, where officers observed him attempting to break into an apartment, the NYPD said.
Police planned to charge Soto with attempted burglary, criminal trespassing and possession of burglary tools in connection to the Jan. 25 incident, they said. They also connected him to an incident on Jan. 24 in which a woman reported that someone was attempting to break in to her Upper East Side apartment from her terrace, the NYPD said.
Soto had a criminal history that included 19 prior arrests for burglary, drugs, assault and larceny, according to the Daily News.
A woman at his last known address who identified herself as Soto's step-daughter declined to comment.
Police said at the meeting Monday night that they were waiting on DNA evidence and fingerprint analysis to confirm matches to other burglary scenes. They also said the number of burglaries in the area had dropped significantly since the suspect's arrest, from about 33 in December to about 18 in February.