The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maryland attorney found dead in his home after police responded to possible burglary

Brian R. Bregman, 43, was found dead in his home in Laurel, Md. He was a 16-year reserve officer with the D.C. police. (Guilherme Fares)
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Brian Bregman was a “laywer’s lawyer,” the kind of attorney so dedicated to his clients that he lived in an apartment above his private practice office in downtown Laurel because, colleagues said, he was always working.

He would call other lawyers on weekends and holidays and pick up the phone without hesitation to answer a question about case law with encyclopedic precision.

But on Wednesday afternoon, something was amiss at his home and office on Main Street. Just before 1 p.m., Laurel police officers received a call to investigate a possible burglary.

When they arrived, they found Bregman’s body inside his apartment. The 43-year-old was pronounced dead, and homicide detectives began investigating what had happened.

Laurel police have released few details about Bregman’s death. They have not announced an arrest or said how he died. In a statement Thursday, authorities said his body had been transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which will perform an autopsy.

His friends and colleagues in the legal community spent Thursday wondering who would want to hurt a person they knew to be a kind, gentle soul with no known enemies.

“I can’t even begin to imagine,” said David Zwanetz, a criminal defense attorney in Columbia, Md. “He was nothing but a pillar in the legal community. A young star, somebody that everybody knew was bright.”

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Bregman, raised in Prince George’s County, had his hand in just about everything, friends, family and fellow lawyers said Thursday. He had been a practicing defense attorney for decades, a firefighter and paramedic with the Greenbelt Volunteer Fire Department, a Maryland forensic death investigator and a 16-year reserve officer with the D.C. police.

He was unmarried and did not have children, friends said, and he poured himself into work.

“Once you were Brian’s client, you had him all the way,” Prince George’s Public Defender Keith Lotridge said.

The two attended law school together in Baltimore at the University of Maryland, where Bregman, according to his website, graduated fifth in his class. He also received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland at College Park, where he graduated summa cum laude.

In the region’s legal community, Bregman earned a reputation as a “statutory wizard,” Zwanetz said. Lawyers in who practiced in Maryland and the District grew accustomed to texting or calling Bregman with a legal question because they knew he would know the answer without hesitation.

Chris Peretti, who practices in D.C. and Maryland, said that he met Bregman decades ago and that he quickly became a reliable confidant. Last summer, Bregman referred him a big case simply because he wanted to help Peretti get a legal experience he had not yet had.

“To me, it showed he was interested in me doing well,” Peretti said.

On Thursday, lawyer after lawyer shared with the defense bar Listserv similar stories of the unwavering support, energy and time Bregman had given them over the years. And Peretti, along with others, quickly realized that what they thought was a special kind of friendship they shared with Bregman was common.

“I thought he was just doing this for me,” Peretti said, “but it turns out he was doing this for everybody.”

“His personality was one that he made everybody genuinely feel like we were his best friend,” said defense attorney Andy Jezic. “He was a true gentleman.Someone that genuinely cared about the other person, wanted to give his time and expertise often times for free, just because he thought that was the right thing to do.

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Bregman’s younger brother, Jason Bregman, said that generosity extended to his family as well.

“He did a lot of good for a lot of people,” Bregman said.

The two grew up in Lanham, with an educator father and psychologist mother. Brian Bregman was a risk-taker from an early age, his brother said, and he became a volunteer firefighter in his teens, then an EMT and eventually a paramedic.

Bregman said that visits with his brother in their younger years meant tagging along with him to medical emergencies. He witnessed his brother’s dedication to the work and to the people he was trying to help. His brother was “tenacious” and a “bulldog,” Bregman said.

In a tribute posted to Facebook on Thursday, the Greenbelt Volunteer Fire Department said that Bregman joined the fire service in 1998 and served in Landover Hills and West Lanham Hills before moving to the Greenbelt station. He was not actively serving at the time of his death, the department said. He had previously worked as the EMS Liaison and legal counsel for the Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.

When he wasn’t working, or volunteering, or mentoring other lawyers, Bregman would travel, his brother said. He ventured to China, Thailand, Japan and the Philippines. He made his way through some of Europe, the Middle East, South America and North Africa. He even spent some time working as a firefighter and paramedic in Antarctica.

The walls of his office were lined with treasures and trinkets from his travels, which his brother said he used to ease the nerves of his clients.

David Waranch, a Maryland traffic attorney, said Bregman was “quirky” and that he “kept a relatively low profile but was one of the most talented lawyers in the community.”

“He really had this energy and passion for lawyering that is a little rare these days,” Waranch said. “He was really in it, his whole soul was in it. He really loved being a lawyer.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Andy Jezic’s name. This story has been updated.

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