UNION SQUARE — The manhunt for the knife-wielding man who stabbed a New York Red Bulls youth soccer coach to death intensified Monday as NYPD detectives pored over several videos that may have captured the moments before the brutal slaying.
Investigators were digging through surveillance footage from several locations that showed Michael Jones, 25, encounter the mysterious assailant on West 14th Street somewhere between Fifth and Avenue of the Americas about 4:30 a.m. Sunday, sources said.
Jones, a British native who lived in West Harrison, NY, had left The Park, a nightclub on Tenth Avenue, and was headed toward his girlfriend's home in the East Village, where his car was parked nearby.
That's when he crossed paths with the suspect, sources said.
The attacker pulled a knife and plunged it into the back of Jones' head and his neck. The man kept stabbing, driving the knife into Jones' chest and stomach, sources said.
The attacker also cut off Jones' ear during the melee, sources added.
Jones was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he died, police said.
Cops, meanwhile, were trying to zero on a motive for the killing. Jones was not robbed, sources said.
The NYPD released video of the suspect Sunday night, hoping the public will recognize the man. The suspect, described as being between 25 to 30 years old, was wearing a black jacket and dark pants.
Back in England, Jones’ family, who was watching a soccer match, heard about his death when a friend sent them a Facebook message, according to the New York Daily News. The message said something had happened to their son and they should contact the NYPD, the newspaper reported.
“I guessed it was something serious, but I didn’t think it would be murder,” Jones’ father, Perry Jones, 50, told the newspaper. “We are just stuck in shock, really, that this is real, this is happening to us. You think you’ll wake up and it’ll be a dream.”
For the last five years, Jones had worked as a youth soccer coach for several Westchester teams, too, including the Armonk United Soccer Club, which is affiliated with the New York Red Bulls professional team.
“He was a tremendous individual, a fantastic coach who loved soccer and a terrific friend for many of us. This is truly a sad day for our soccer community,” the New York Red Bulls said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s family at this time.”
A colleague there said Jones was “a great guy” and “pleasant.”
“He believed in the work he was doing with the kids,” said Mark Fischer, who worked with Jones on Armonk United. “He grew up on the game and this was a passion of his. He wanted to impart it on the kids that he worked with and he was good at it.”
Fischer said parents of children Jones had coached were devastated by his death.
The Red Bulls and Armonk United are planning a memorial for Jones on Wednesday in Westchester.
Craig Hutchinson, 30, who identified himself as one of Jones’ best friends, said he had been in touch with Jones on Saturday night and that the two were supposed to meet up.
But that never happened, said Hutchinson, a fellow coach with Armonk United.
“Not only was he a very good coach in terms of knowing the sport inside and out, but he was able to communicate with kids of all ages,” Hutchinson said. “Parents are having a hard time breaking it to their kids that they’re not going to see Coach Mike again.”
The brutal killing left workers and residents in the neighborhood stunned.
"I mean, it was really scary and I didn't expect it," said Dawn McCoy, 25, who has lived in the area for three years. "I'm definitely not going to go out by myself late at night for a while."
Joe Johnson, 25, a security guard who works in the area, added the normally vibrant strip of stores isn't usually the scene of such a crime.
"It's unexpected," he said. "It's 14th Street. It's a busy street."
By Monday afternoon, a makeshift memorial appeared near the spot where Jones was killed. A red soccer jersey was posted to a tree, and on it, someone had written "Mike Jones: Gone but never forgotten."
Throughout the day, passersby stopped to read the memorial and take photographs, and some decided to pay their respects, despite never knowing the victim.
Amanda Arrillagh, 41, a Harlem resident, was in Union Square for a movie on Monday. She heard about the incident and was moved to add onto the memorial even though she didn't know Jones, ripping off a piece of paper and using a pink sharpie to write her condolences.
"The fact that this guy was just walking down the street at 4:30 and a little argument ends up in a death is ridiculous," Arrillagh said.
"With the amount of death and senselessness, I just want to make T-shirts that say think before you shoot, think before you stab, think before you hurt people."
The Armonk United Soccer Club will hold a memorial service for Jones on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church, located at 456 North Street in White Plains.