NEW YORK — The man who is suspected of brutally stabbing a soccer coach to death in Union Square fled to Mexico before police could catch him, the NYPD confirmed Tuesday night.
Orlando Orea, 32, flew from JFK Airport to Mexico City Tuesday morning, hours before police uncovered his name in their investigation and placed him on a no-fly list, sources said.
Orea, a Queens resident, paid cash for his Aero Mexico ticket and bought it just before boarding, sources said.
Police believe Orea, who has been arrested several times for violent offenses, is now hiding out in his home city of Pueblo, located outside Mexico City, sources said.
Sources said the NYPD is in contact with state, federal and Mexican authorities to coordinate efforts to track Orea down.
Orea is suspected of knifing Michael Jones, 25, a New York Red Bulls youth soccer coach, after confronting Jones at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue early Sunday morning, police said.
The NYPD is investigating the attack as a case of mistaken identity, in which Orea incorrectly believed he recognized Jones from a dispute in a bar earlier in the evening, police said.
Police believe the bar was Bunga’s Den, 137 West 14th Street, about a block from where they say Orea killed Jones, according to the New York Post.
“There may have been a ‘discussion’ with a woman that [the suspect] met in a bar,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Tuesday. “We don’t believe at this time that he [Jones] was involved with the fight with the perpetrator in that bar."
Several men intervened in the dispute and left the bar with the woman while Orea continued to drink there, according to the Post.
Orea left about 30 minutes later and encountered Jones on the street making a phone call, the paper reported. The two exchanged words before Orea shoved Jones against a wall and slashed him with a knife, according to the Post.
Bar patrons recalled seeing Orea with a knife during the earlier bar fight, the AP reported.
Jones, a British native who lived in West Harrison, N.Y., was stabbed in the head, neck, chest and stomach about 4:30 a.m. Sunday. The attacker chopped off Jones' ear as well, before leaving him bleeding in the street, police said.
Jones was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Sources said police received multiple tips after releasing video of the suspect and that the suspect's tattooist ultimately identified him as Orlando Orea.
Sources said Orea was arrested twice for domestic violence in Nassau County, and in March of 2001, he was accused of stabbing three people during a fight outside a Bell Boulevard bar.
Orea was later acquitted at trial.
Residents in Orea's Ridgewood neighborhood said he seemed odd.
"I’ve seen him just a couple times, but he seemed like a weird guy,” said neighbor Karen Espinoza, 18. “Every time I’d see him I’d always be freaked.”
But other neighbors said Orea showed no signs of snapping.
“He seemed like a pretty cool guy. He was never in a bad mood,” said Michael Chumpitaz, 18. “He didn't seem like the type of guy to do that type of stuff.''
Sources said police executed a search warrant at Orea's home but still have not found the murder weapon.