Man suspected of stalking, killing homeless people arrested
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man suspected of stalking and shooting homeless people asleep on the streets of New York City and Washington was arrested early Tuesday. Police said at least two people were killed and three others wounded in the attacks.
The suspect, Gerald Brevard was arrested in Washington on murder, assault and other charges after news of the killings had added new fears to people spending nights on the streets of the two cities and elsewhere.
The 30-year-old man, who lives in the Washington area, was charged Tuesday only in connection with the Washington cases and has not been charged in the New York attacks. Brevard has a criminal history that includes assaulting a police officer and assault with a deadly weapon and was in custody Tuesday. He was being questioned by both New York and Washington detectives.
Police in the two cities earlier released multiple surveillance photographs, including a closeup showing the suspect’s face that was obtained from an ATM surveillance camera in Washington, and urged people who might know him to come forward. Investigators used ballistic evidence and tips to help link the shootings, and a tipster called police with information about the suspect’s identity, officials said.
Police are now contacting other cities to determine whether or not the suspect might be responsible for attacks elsewhere. Though he hasn’t been charged yet in the New York cases, police feel “very confident” they have identified the correct suspect, Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said.
All of the shootings involved .22-caliber bullets, and surveillance photos and video, along with witness statements, all pointed to a single suspect — a man wearing distinctive sneakers, black pants and the same face mask, New York Police Department Chief of Detectives James Essig told reporters.
Police on Tuesday identified the Washington victim who died as 54-year-old Morgan Holmes. The New York victim was not identified.
New York detectives were in Washington and participating in interviews with the suspect, Essig said. But investigators did not immediately find anything further connecting the suspect to New York beyond surveillance video and ballistics evidence or any social media postings or other evidence explaining a motive.
Brevard hasn’t offered any inkling of a motive during interviews with detectives, and authorities believe he may have been randomly targeting the victims, Contee said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York City Mayor Eric Adams credited the swift coordination between the two police departments and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF agents took Brevard into custody around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning before handing him over to detectives in Washington. They have not yet recovered a gun.
“This man targeted those experiencing homelessness with no regard for life, but this criminal is now off the streets,” Adams said Tuesday. “Gun violence against anyone, let alone our most vulnerable populations, is sick, but thanks to the coordination between different levels of law enforcement and the public’s help, those experiencing homelessness can breathe a sigh of relief today.”
Court records show Brevard was arrested in July 2018 on assault charges and later pleaded guilty to attempted assault with a deadly weapon. He was found mentally incompetent to stand trial in June 2019. Records show Brevard was sent to St. Elizabeths Hospital, a psychiatric facility in the District. A month later, he was deemed competent to stand trial. Soon after, records show, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison. That sentence, however, was suspended.
Investigators also are trying to determine why Brevard was out on the streets around 2:30 a.m., when he was arrested.
Advocates for the homeless found comfort in the arrest but urged officials in both cities, which have significant populations of people without permanent shelter, to provide more assistance.
“The urgency of helping people move in off the streets must remain, because this is only the latest example of the risks faced by people without housing,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City. “It’s not the first time that people have been the victims of violence or even homicides because of their housing status.”
Investigators in the two cities began to suspect a link between the shootings on Sunday after a Metropolitan Police Department homicide captain, a former New York City resident, saw surveillance photos that had been released on Saturday night by the New York Police Department while scrolling through social media.
The man in those photos looked similar to the one being sought by the MPD homicide captain’s own department. Contee credited the coordination between the departments for the timely arrest.
The earliest known shooting happened at around 4 a.m. on March 3 in Washington, police said, when a man was wounded in the city’s Northeast section. A second man was wounded on March 8, just before 1:30 a.m.
At 3 a.m. the next day, police and firefighters found Holmes dead inside a burning tent. He initially was thought to have suffered fatal burns, but an autopsy revealed he had died of multiple stab and gunshot wounds.
The killer then traveled north to New York City, police said. Surveillance video showed a man who investigators believe is Brevard at Penn Station in Manhattan around 3:30 a.m.
An hour later, a 38-year-old man sleeping on the street in Manhattan not far from the entrance to the Holland Tunnel was shot in his right arm as he slept. The victim screamed, and the gunman fled, police said.
About 90 minutes later, the gunman fatally shot another man in SoHo, police said.
“He looked around,” Adams said. “He made sure no one was there. And he intentionally took the life of an innocent person.”
The man’s body was found in his sleeping bag just before 5 p.m. Saturday. He had been shot in the head and neck, said Julie Bolcer, a spokesperson for the New York City medical examiner’s office.
The victim had lain in the street for hours before authorities were summoned.
Police believe Brevard quickly returned to Washington, D.C. after the attacks.
Kess Abraham, who became homeless last month, said he was “pained” to learn of “a guy who lived on the streets who probably was minding his own business getting murdered for no reason.”
It could have been “any one of us who’s homeless,” Abraham said.
The latest attacks were reminiscent of the beating deaths of four homeless men as they slept on the streets in New York’s Chinatown in the fall of 2019. Another homeless man, Randy Santos, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in those attacks. A year ago, four people were stabbed in New York City, two fatally, by a man who attacked homeless people in the subway system. That accused assailant, who also was homeless, is awaiting trial.
This story has been corrected to show that two people were killed in the shootings, not three.
Calvan reported from New York. Associated Press writers Colleen Long in Washington and Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed to this report.