Police arrest man suspected of stalking, killing homeless

Morning In America

NEW YORK (AP) — Police said early Tuesday they arrested a suspected gunman who has been stalking homeless men sleeping on the streets of New York City and Washington, D.C., killing at least two people and wounding three others in less than two weeks.

Law enforcement arrested the suspect, Gerald Brevard, at around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday at a Washington gas station.

Video shows police pointing multiple weapons at Brevard until he’s on the ground. Brevard, according to the video, appears to be unarmed.

Hours before, police had released pictures and video of Brevard, offering a $70,000 reward for tips.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, speaking together at a news conference Monday, had urged anyone living on the streets to go to city shelters where they might be safer.

“We know that our unsheltered residents already face a lot of daily dangers and it is unconscionable that anybody would target this vulnerable population,” Bowser said.

Adams said New York City police and homeless outreach teams would focus on finding unhoused people in the subways and other locations to urge them to seek refuge at city-owned shelters.

In Washington, city outreach workers were passing out flyers among the homeless population, urging people to “be vigilant” and featuring multiple pictures of the suspect.

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.

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee credited the quick coordination between departments, saying that without that officer making the connection, “It could have been months” before the link between the attacks was discovered.

The earliest known attack happened at around 4 a.m. on March 3 in Washington, 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, police and firefighters found a man dead 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 traveled north to New York City, police said.

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 on Lafayette Street 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.

“Any one of us who’s homeless could have went to that same situation,” said Kess Abraham, who fell into homelessness last month.

After finding refuge in parks and other places across Brooklyn and Manhattan, Abraham tried to find help at the Bowery Mission, which houses hundreds of homeless people in its facilities across the city.

He 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.”

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.

New York City’s mayor has been criticized by some anti-poverty advocates for his plan to remove homeless people from the city’s subway system by deploying police and mental health workers to keep people from sleeping in trains or stations.

Adams, on Monday, defended the policy, saying it was designed to protect the safety of both commuters and homeless residents.

“There is nothing dignified about allowing people to sleep on subway platforms,” he said.

Brevard has had run-ins with the law before: In 2018, he was accused of trying to stab someone in his way while he tried to ride his bike in D.C. He was found mentally incompetent at one point, and spent time in a mental hospital before eventually pleading guilty to the stabbing.

Brevard will be in court for his alleged attacks against homeless people Wednesday.

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