Police arrest man suspected of stalking, killing homeless in NYC, Washington

A gunman suspected of stalking homeless men asleep on the streets of New York City and Washington, D.C., killing at least two people and wounding three others, was arrested early Tuesday, police said.

Investigators in the 2 cities began to suspect link between shootings based on surveillance photos of suspect

A pedestrian walks past a bulletin posted by NYPD near the place where a homeless person was killed days earlier in lower Manhattan on Monday. Police said Tuesday they have arrested a suspect in the killings of two homeless men and the wounding of three others in two states. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/The Associated Press)

A gunman suspected of stalking homeless men asleep on the streets of New York City and Washington, D.C., killing at least two people and wounding three others, was arrested early Tuesday, police said.

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.

Police in the two cities earlier released multiple surveillance photographs, including a close-up 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.

Authorities looking into motive

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-calibre 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.

An image of the suspect is projected behind Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser during a news conference in Washington on Monday. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

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 co-ordination 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 before handing him over to detectives in Washington. They have not yet recovered a gun.

"Gun violence against anyone, let alone our most vulnerable populations, is sick, but thanks to the co-ordination between different levels of law enforcement and the public's help, those experiencing homelessness can breathe a sigh of relief today," Adams said on Tuesday.

Homeless need more assistance: advocates

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.

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.

A pedestrian walks past signs left as a memorial near the place where a homeless person was killed days earlier in lower Manhattan on Monday. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/The Associated Press)

"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 resident of New York City — saw surveillance photos that had been released 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 his own department. Contee credited the quick co-ordination between departments for the timely arrest.

1st known shooting on March 3

The earliest known shooting happened at around 4 a.m. ET on March 3 in Washington, D.C., police said, when a man was shot and 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, March 9, police and firefighters found a dead man inside a burning tent. He was initially thought to have suffered fatal burns, but a subsequent autopsy revealed that the man had died of multiple stab and gunshot wounds.

The killer then travelled 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.

These images taken from surveillance video and provided by the NYPD show a man suspected of shooting two homeless people on Saturday in New York. (New York Police Department/The Associated Press)

At 4:30 a.m. Saturday, 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. He made sure no one was there. And he intentionally took the life of an innocent person," Adams said.

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.

Previous attacks on homeless

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."

"Any one of us who's homeless could have went to that same situation," 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 randomly attacked homeless people in the subway system. That assailant, who was also homeless, is awaiting trial.