While police continue investigating the stabbing death of Brooklyn activist Ryan Carson, interest in the case has turned into a targeted harassment campaign.
A spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed Thursday to Rolling Stone that a person of interest in the case had been taken into custody but declined to release any additional information. CBS News reports that the suspect is Brian Dowling, an 18-year-old Brooklyn man who has been charged with murder and the criminal possession of a weapon.
Carson, 32, was stabbed to death early Monday morning in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant while returning from a wedding with his girlfriend, writer Claudia Morales. According to police and video footage of the incident obtained by the New York Post, an individual in a black hoodie began approaching the couple after yelling “What are you looking at?” around 4 a.m.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said in a Wednesday briefing that Carson put himself in between Morales and the individual and attempted to de-escalate the situation, but was stabbed several times. “As Mr. Carson lay dying on the sidewalk, the male with the knife kicks him in the chest, threatens to stab the woman companion and spits in her face,” Kenny said. A woman was also seen running up to Morales and apologizing before referring to Carson’s stabber as Brian. Police responded to the scene at Lafayette Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard and Carson was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he died. Police believe that the individual did not know Carson or Morales and that the stabbing was random. The investigation is ongoing.
Carson was best known for his decade of work with the non-profit organization New York Public Interest Research Group, where he advocated for policy reform surrounding drug use and spearheaded community outreach programs. He was also a proponent of harm reduction as an effort to help curb the opioid crisis. But while Carson’s friends and colleagues mourn, Carson’s political beliefs and work with drug policy reform have made him a target for right-wing conspiracies and vitriol online. Popular pundits like Andy Ngo, Matt Walsh, and Nick Fuentes have all brought up Carson’s death, blaming it on “leftism,” anti-cop beliefs, and soft-on-crime sentiments. “The Ryan Carson story shows how leftism short circuits your brain and interferes with your ability to make common sense, instinctive judgment calls,” Walsh wrote on X (formerly Twitter). And the smear campaign has even begun targeting Morales specifically, accusing the Brooklyn writer of setting up a GoFundMe for financial fraud, making baseless attacks about her character, and going as far as accusing her of orchestrating Carson’s murder.
Even as targeted attacks continue, the 31-year-old activist is being remembered by friends and colleagues as a dedicated worker and passionate poet. “He did so much for the city, and he was going to do so much more,” his friend Melissa Lozada-Oliva told Gothamist. “I’m so sad to not be able to see those things.”
“It breaks my heart to know how much he could’ve accomplished in the span of his life and it was just taken too soon,” friend and colleague Jaqi Cohen told NY1. “This is not just a loss for us. This a loss for all of New York.”
Senator Chuck Schumer called Carson a “rising talent and an extraordinary activist.” In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, “Ryan was a beloved staffer, colleague and friend, and a creative, talented, relentless and upbeat advocate for students and the environment,” NYPIRG said. “His engaging personality, hearty laugh and wide-ranging intelligence were keys to his success in advancing the causes he deeply cared about in his work and personal life.”
New York State Assemblymember Emily Gallagher called the late advocate a dear and trusted friend.
“Ryan was the kindest, funniest, and hardest-working man in advocacy. He and I bonded because our friends died in the opioid epidemic, & we struggled to make good out of our grief,” Gallagher wrote. “He put his whole heart into making the world a safer place for all people.”