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Suspect in shootings of 5 homeless men arrested in Washington


Still images taken from surveillance video and provided by the New York Police Department show the person who the police believe shot two homeless people in lower Manhattan early Saturday, March 12, 2022.

By Andy Newman, Campbell Robertsonand Ashley Southall


A 30-year-old Washington, D.C., man with a lengthy history of mental illness and assault charges was arrested early Tuesday in connection with a series of shootings that killed two homeless men in New York and Washington and wounded three others.


The suspect, identified by relatives and law enforcement officials as Gerald Brevard III, was arrested around 2:30 a.m. in southeast Washington by agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said a spokeswoman, Whitney Cruse.


Brevard’s father, Gerald Brevard Jr., confirmed his son’s arrest and extended “deepest condolences” to the victims and their families.


In a statement sent by text to a reporter, the elder Brevard, who lives in Virginia, wrote that despite his son’s many encounters with the criminal justice system, his illness had not been addressed — showing, he said, “how the system has failed regarding the treatment of so many.”


“I cannot speak to the details of the case,” he said. “I can only speak to the issue of the failure of the judicial system identifying that my son suffers from mental illness but not treating it.”


The younger Brevard had a record of misdemeanors and felonies in Washington and northern Virginia, including several charges of assault, according to court records. In 2019, he was found mentally incompetent after a court-ordered examination and was temporarily committed to Saint Elizabeths Hospital, a psychiatric hospital operated by the city’s Department of Behavioral Health.


His arrest came after a brief but intense two-city manhunt. He is accused of shooting three homeless men in Washington earlier this month and two more in lower Manhattan on Saturday, all while they were sleeping in the middle of the night. One victim in each city died; the man who died in Washington was also stabbed and his tent set on fire.


Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department said Brevard was being interviewed by its homicide branch.


“Thanks to the community for all your tips,” the department said in a tweet. Authorities had offered $70,000 for information that led to an arrest and conviction.


After a Monday evening news conference in Washington at which new pictures of the suspect were made public, police in New York received a tip with Brevard’s name, according to a law enforcement official. He was arrested soon after.


Mayor Muriel Bowser, in a joint statement Tuesday with her counterpart in New York, Eric Adams, underscored the role that tips played in the investigation.


“We said that the work to remove this man from our streets was urgent, and our communities responded,” Bowser said.


The extended shooting spree prompted an intense search across both cities. Authorities said the man shot three men sleeping outdoors in Washington between March 3 and March 9, as well as the two men in lower Manhattan. Adams said the arrest was the result of a successful joint effort between city and federal officials “to bring a coldblooded killer to justice.”


He added, “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.”


At the news conference Monday, the mayors and police officials of both cities had pleaded for help finding the gunman. In New York, investigators searched homeless encampments with outreach workers, looking for others whom the gunman might have targeted, law enforcement officials said, and distributed flyers with pictures of a suspect. And they searched block by block for people sleeping on the streets, encouraging them to move into shelters for their own safety.


Many questions about the gunman remained unanswered, including why he targeted people living on the street.


Authorities said they connected the cases after a police captain investigating the killing of a homeless man in Washington saw a photo on social media of the suspect in the New York attacks. Ballistics analysis confirmed Sunday that the same gun was used in all five shootings, according to the ATF.


In each of the shootings, a lone gunman dressed in dark clothing targeted homeless men between midnight and dawn.


Police have not released the names of the victims, about whom few details are known.


As news of the arrest spread in Washington on Tuesday, Gregory Hammett, a 62-year-old disabled and homeless veteran, said he was slightly relieved but still fearful for his safety.


“You have to be out there to understand that on any given night, things change so fast, and you can end up with a world of hurt,” said Hammett, who was about to return to living in the tent encampment in front of Union Station, after a respite in assisted living.


“If you’re out there, you never know when someone is going to come at you, maybe to rob you or bonk you on the head,” he said.


The shootings come at an anxious moment for the thousands of people who live unsheltered in New York. And they come several weeks into a campaign by Adams to remove people who shelter in the subway system. Advocates for homeless people had warned that the effort would push many people to the street who refuse to stay in the city’s barrackslike group shelters, which they find rife with crime and interpersonal conflict.


In interviews in both cities before the arrest, several homeless people said they were unnerved by the attacks, but not enough to move indoors.


“Listen, the streets are dangerous,” Marty Mercer, 51, said near his tent in the makeshift campground in front of Union Station in Washington on Monday as commuters hurried by. “Just because someone is doing this on a serial basis is no different.”

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