Man murdered by son during Zoom meeting, many on call dialed 911

About 20 people were tuned in to a Zoom conference call just after noon on Thursday when 72-year-old Dwight Powers unexpectedly slumped from his chair and disappeared off-screen.

Near where Powers had been sitting in his Amityville, New York, home, his 32-year-old son, Thomas Scully-Powers, suddenly appeared, standing naked, witnesses told police. Several people on the video chat dialed 911.

“They all did the right thing,” Suffolk County Police Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, commanding officer of the homicide unit, told Newsday. “They were all concerned about their friend. It was horrible that they had to witness this.”

Officers later found Powers stabbed to death in his home, killed by his son, police say. He said witnesses recounted watching Powers fall and hearing heavy breathing over the call.

It’s unclear if any of the people on the video call actually saw the son stab Powers, Beyrer told Newsday.

“We don’t know what they witnessed. There were a number of people on this conference call,” he told the paper.

Zoom has become an increasingly common method of communication as the coronavirus pandemic has canceled group activities and large gatherings. But the video-chat platform has been criticized over security concerns, after hackers have sabotaged news conferences, Bible study sessions, community meetings and graduation ceremonies. Malicious hackers have displayed Nazi imagery, racist messages and child porn during widely-attended Zoom calls. In response, Zoom rolled out a 90-day plan to fix the app’s vulnerabilities and has issued security updates aimed at fending off so-called “zoom-bombers.”

The fatal stabbing of Powers appears to be the first slaying to occur on a Zoom chat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Police did not release any information on a suspected motive in the killing, though Beyrer told Newsday police do not think the alleged murder was related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Police also declined to describe the nature of the Zoom call, citing privacy concerns.

An unnamed witness told WABC that people watched as Scully-Powers stripped the sheets from a bed and laid them on the ground, as if to cover something.

After witnesses called 911, it took about 20 minutes to determine where Powers lived, police said. Officers arrived at the father and son’s home within an hour of the alleged stabbing, according to a statement from the Suffolk County Police Department. WABC reported that Scully-Powers answered the door, before slamming it closed and running upstairs.

A police spokesman told The Washington Post that Scully-Powers then jumped from a second-story window and fled the scene.

Scully-Powers was arrested about a mile away just before 1 p.m. He was charged with second-degree murder and transferred to a hospital to receive treatment for minor injuries sustained from jumping out the window, police said.