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Mask, gloves, bullet casings among evidence tying man to attacks of homeless men, police say

A 30-year-old D.C. man was ordered to remain detained after court hearing. He was charged in one homicide in the District and accused in other attacks in D.C. and in New York City.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) leads a news conference that included images of a man who was wanted in attacks on homeless people in D.C. and New York. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

The homeless men died three days apart in cities separated by 225 miles — one attacked in his tent along a busy commuter route in the District, the other shot in the head as he dozed in his sleeping bag outside a shop in Lower Manhattan.

Police now say surveillance video shows the alleged killer wore identical-looking clothes to both crime scenes this month — a black jacket, black pants, black sneakers, a black mask and blue latex gloves.

Even the bullet casings found on both streets — and at three other shootings in both cities in which homeless men were wounded — were the same: .22 caliber, all stamped with the letter “C.”

New details of the attacks over nine days targeting five homeless men in two major East Coast cities were revealed Wednesday in court documents filed as the man police arrested in the attacks, 30-year-old Gerald Brevard III, made his first appearance in D.C. Superior Court.

The District resident, described by his family as mentally ill and sometimes homeless himself, was arrested Tuesday in Southeast Washington after police said they learned his identity from an acquaintance and tracked his phone and social media accounts.

Man arrested in shootings of homeless people in D.C., New York

Police said Brevard posted a selfie to Instagram on Monday amid a massive search, writing, “Feeling Devilish Feeling Godly.”

On Tuesday, D.C. police said they charged Brevard with first-degree murder while armed, assault with intent to kill and assault with a dangerous weapon, in connection to three attacks in the District.

But on Wednesday, the U.S. attorney’s office presented only the murder charge, saying the other shootings in the District, and the two in New York City, remain under investigation.

Police in the District and in New York say they believe Brevard is responsible for all five attacks, for which a motive remains elusive. Police also said they do not know how or why Brevard apparently traveled to New York, a city that his family and authorities said he has no known ties.

At Wednesday’s hearing, D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Tanya Jones Bosier rejected arguments from Brevard’s attorney and ordered him detained until further court proceedings April 1.

The defense attorney, Ronald Resetarits, said evidence police listed was not strong enough to justify an arrest. He said several witnesses in D.C. and in New York did not describe an assailant who resembled his client, and he noted police have not recovered a firearm.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Jackson said witness accounts all included similar clothing descriptions, and at least one tipster identified Brevard from security camera images. She also said the attacks were carried out in similar fashion and that cellphone location data put him in both cities when the attacks occurred.

Another prosecutor, Sarah Santiago, said “in this case, we have, over the course of 10 days, five different victims, two deaths in two different jurisdictions, and three shootings alone in the District of Columbia.”

Santiago noted a “a disturbing escalation of violent behavior particularly aimed at individuals in the community who are vulnerable because they live on the streets.”

Brevard has been in and out of jails for years in Maryland, the District and Virginia on charges ranging from shoplifting and unlawful entry to attacking a bicyclist with a knife and assaulting a police officer.

Most recently he served several months in Fairfax County jail after he was arrested on an abduction charge that was reduced to misdemeanor assault in a plea agreement. Santiago told the court Brevard is still on probation from that case.

Brevard’s relatives said this week they are shocked by the charges and have offered condolences to the victims and their families. They also said that they repeatedly tried to have Brevard committed for psychiatric help but that those efforts failed.

The defense attorney, Resetarits, said Brevard has lived in D.C. for about 20 years, graduated high school and completed some college course work.

He said Brevard most recently worked at City Winery in Ivy City, near where two of the homeless men were shot and where his family said he once lived at a shelter. Resetarits said Brevard also has worked as a mover, in a bar and at two restaurants.

The first shooting in the District occurred March 3 in the 1100 block of New York Avenue NE. The affidavit says the man had fallen asleep on a sidewalk and was shot in the lower back and shoulder. Another homeless man was shot March 8 in the 1700 bock of H Street NE, struck in the head, chest and thigh as he sat on a chair. Both men survived.

D.C.’s ‘Skid Row-type thing’: Homeless encampments grow amid pandemic

On March 9, police said Morgan Holmes, 54, was shot and stabbed along New York Avenue in a tent that was set on fire near Union Market.

The court affidavit says surveillance cameras enabled police to retrace Brevard’s path after the attack on Holmes, tracking him to a service station on Florida Avenue where they said he tried to fill a cup with gasoline, and then to Union Station, where they said he stopped at an ATM.

Police widely distributed a picture from the ATM to the media during their search.

Authorities said they believe Brevard later traveled to New York City. Police there said their first known sighting of him was at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday at Penn Station in Manhattan, a major Amtrak hub for train lines that travel up and down the East Coast.

Authorities said a homeless man was shot an hour later as he slept near the Holland Tunnel. About 90 minutes later, police said another homeless man was shot in his sleeping bag 15 blocks away. He was later found dead.

The police affidavit filed in D.C. says surveillance cameras captured the man they believe to be Brevard after that shooting “wearing clothing identical to the suspect clothing worn during the March 9 homicide in Washington, D.C.”

By 5:20 a.m. on Sunday, police said, Brevard was back in the District.