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A landlord in Albany, New York, who was apparently fed up with eviction rules, abducted two of his sleeping tenants and left them in the cold in an empty cemetery this weekend, according to law enforcement sources and documents obtained by VICE News.
The 48-year-old landlord, Shawn Douglas, has since been charged with second-degree kidnapping. Law enforcement sources confirmed to VICE News that he was frustrated with eviction moratoriums during the pandemic. He was also allegedly armed at the time of the incident, which involved two other people who have not been charged, according to the Albany Times Union, which first reported the allegations.
Between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday, Douglas and two other people allegedly abducted the tenants—who have not been named—while they were sleeping at home and assaulted them, according to charging documents and a report from the Albany Police Department. One tenant said he was punched and kicked in the course of the incident.
After the tenants were restrained with zip ties, tape, and pillowcases and loaded into a vehicle, they were allegedly driven to what they believed to be a motel in Colonie, a suburb of New York’s capital city.
The victims said that the suspects were “in possession of an unknown type firearm,” according to the police report. They were later left in “in the middle of a cemetery” in the rural town of Ghent, New York. Temperatures in Ghent reached a low of 8 degrees Fahrenheit on the day they were allegedly captured.
Douglas has pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping charge, according to court records. He is represented by an attorney with the Albany County Public Defender’s Office, which did not immediately return VICE News’ request for comment. Douglas also didn’t respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
Nearly all eviction proceedings are on hold in New York State, thanks to a moratorium from the state Legislature. That protection is set to end Friday.
But a federal moratorium is still in place for certain non-paying renters—tenants just have to provide a sworn declaration to their landlord that they qualify under criteria set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal ban, which is notably full of loopholes, currently lasts through the end of March.
The moratoriums are unpopular with landlords, some of whom have gone without receiving rent during the pandemic despite having their own bills to pay. In extreme circumstances, landlords have resorted to so-called “self-help” evictions, or essentially harassing their tenants to the point that they abandon the property.
Douglas was released from jail after posting a $50,000 bond, according to a spokesperson from the Albany County District Attorney's Office. He does not currently have any formal court appearances scheduled.