The slashing murder of a British soccer coach on West 14th Street over the weekend may have grown out of a fight in a bar, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said on Tuesday. But the motivation for the deadly attack was still not known, he said.
“We believe there was a fight in the bar,” Mr. Kelly told reporters, “but we don’t believe at this time that the victim was involved with the perpetrator at the bar.”
Michael Jones, a 25-year-old youth soccer coach from Liverpool, died from stab wounds to the neck and torso following a violent confrontation at around 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the police have said.
The police released surveillance video of a suspect in the killing, a dark-haired, pony-tailed young man in what looked like a leather jacket who could be seen walking slowly from the scene, near a guitar store on the north side of 14th street west of Fifth Avenue.
In an interview, a friend said that Mr. Jones was not the type to start a bar fight. “He wasn’t a confrontational person,” said Craig Hutchinson, 30, a fellow coach at the youth soccer program of the New York Red Bulls, a major-league soccer team. “That’s why it’s been a bit of a mystery as to what could have motivated it.”
Mr. Hutchinson said that Mr. Jones, who lived in an apartment in West Harrison, N.Y., with other coaches, planned to stay in the United States “for the long haul” after coming here in 2008 to teach children to play soccer. “They’re going to have to break it to their kids that they’re not going to see Coach Mike any more,” he said.
Mr. Hutchinson said he had been trying to meet up with Mr. Jones when both were out on Saturday, but as the night stretched into early Sunday morning they did not succeed in doing so.
At one point, Mr. Jones ended up in a Chelsea restaurant and bar called The Park, on 10th Avenue, the police said. Mr. Kelly said it did not appear that the fight had occurred there, and declined to name the bar where the police suspect an altercation related to the murder may have taken place.
Mr. Jones was walking East on 14th Street shortly before the confrontation, friends said. The police said surveillance video showed the two men apart, then coming together — close enough to have a conversation — before the attack. It was not clear from the video whether the two men said anything to one another just before the attack, according to Mr. Kelly.
“We don’t know if they had an argument,” Mr. Kelly said. “There is some discussion about whether or not a woman was possibly involved with the perpetrator here. There may have been a discussion with a woman that he met in the bar.”
Mr. Jones had a girlfriend who lived in the East Village, and it appeared that he was heading in the direction of her apartment when he was killed.
Mr. Kelly said the police were not dismissing the idea that the attack was the result of mistaken identity.
“We’re not ruling that out,” he said. “I guess it’s still a possibility.”
Wendy Ruderman contributed reporting.