Police in Washington, DC, on Tuesday arrested a man with a history of mental illness, whom they suspect of having shot several homeless men in DC and New York, leaving his family members appalled at what they suggested was a fantastic turn towards targeted, murderous violence.
A senior law enforcement official first identified the suspected serial killer as Gerald Brevard III for The Daily Beast, before DC police formally announced his arrest later Tuesday. The official said the 30-year-old was unarmed when he was arrested in northeast Washington, shortly after police became aware of his name. Another law enforcement official told The Daily Beast that police in both cities had received tips about Brevard, prompting officers and ATF agents to prosecute him and eventually take him into custody.
Brevard now faces several charges, including first-degree murder for the death of 54-year-old Morgan Holmes – whose identity was not released until Tuesday afternoon – and assault with intent to kill. DC chief Robert Contee noted at an afternoon press conference that the suspect had not revealed a motive and that police had not seized the firearm they believe was used in the shootings.
“We believe it’s coincidental. I do not know he knew these guys,” Contee told reporters. A lawyer for Brevard could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
A few hours before Brevard’s arrest, around noon. At 5pm on Monday, an Instagram account that appeared to belong to him posted a picture with the text “Feeling Devilish Feeling Godly.” The previous post has Brevard, a resident of Washington, DC, tagged at an event venue in Manhattan. Contee suggested an anonymous tip, and the track on social media had helped police make an arrest.
NYPD chief James Essig said on Tuesday that so far the suspect arrested in DC was only charged with the shootings in the country’s capital. But he stressed that police believe he is the same person who shot two homeless men – one of them fatally – in New York City. So far, Essig said, Brevard was officially a “strong person of interest” in the local shootings as police continued to work with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
The suspect’s father, Gerald Brevard Jr., told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he was “crushed” to hear the news of his son’s arrest. He said they spoke on Monday, and Brevard “did not say anything out of the ordinary.”
“It was a normal conversation,” said the father, who lives in Las Vegas. “But he had to deal with mental illness for the longest time. He has been in and out of mental hospitals. ”
The father added that his son had never made derogatory comments about the homeless community and now the family was “shocked and felt so many different emotions” as they tried to understand what was going through the 30-year-old’s mind over the past few weeks. .
“It all came as a surprise. I never thought he would be violent,” Brevard Jr. added. “He was always mild-mannered.” In a separate statement issued to reporters, Brevard Jr. also stressed that despite many meetings with the justice system, his son’s mental illness was never really treated – which he said showed “how the system has failed in terms of treating so many.”
Dr. Barbara Bazron, director of the Department of Behavioral Health in Washington, said Tuesday that Brevard had previously sought and received mental health services in the city.
While the family expressed shock that he allegedly carried out targeted – and deadly – attacks, Brevard has a long criminal history.
That story includes allegations of violent crimes, such as in July 2018, when Brevard was charged with assault after allegedly waving a knife and trying to stab another person during a fight. In 2019, records show that Brevard was found mentally incompetent after a statutory exam and was temporarily admitted to a city-run psychiatric hospital.
In December 2020, Brevard was charged with assaulting a woman in Virginia. A month before, police said, Brevard pushed a woman toward a hotel hallway and assaulted her. When the woman, who suffered minor injuries, cried for help, Brevard allegedly ran away.
‘He has no connections to New York as far as we can see. He is a DC guy with connections to other areas in the south, “Essig said on Tuesday.
Like his uncle, Dearell Brevard told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he was “completely shocked” by the news that his cousin was in police custody.
“I was not aware of his arrest … I would never expect this from Gerald,” he said.
The 52-year-old added that while he recently saw Brevard, the two were not very close. “I have to call his father! Find out what’s going on. I can not believe this,” he said.
Police confirmed the arrest on Twitter early Tuesday, saying the suspect was questioned in connection with two killings and three shootings of homeless men this month. The attacks sparked panic in both cities, and authorities warned the man appeared to be preying on the most vulnerable community.
“We promised we would bring this killer to justice. We kept that promise. Thank you to all of our law enforcement partners for their good work. Public safety is a prerequisite for prosperity,” New York Mayor Eric Adams tweeted Tuesday. “Keeping our streets safe means bringing our country back.”
The arrest came shortly after police released new close-up surveillance footage of the suspected serial shooter, dressed in all black with a hood pulled up and a mask around his chin.
The attacks began on March 3, when the Metropolitan Police Department of DC responded to a non-lethal shooting of a homeless man early in the morning. A similar attack was reported in the city five days later, on March 8. The next day, police say, Holmes was found dead inside a burning tent with shots and stab wounds.
The serial shootings then moved to New York City, with at least two more attacks on homeless people in a single weekend. Tuesday, a NYPD source said New York Daily News that Brevard took a train from the nation’s capital to New York. Contee said Tuesday that while authorities had some “assumptions” about how Brevard was able to travel to New York City – and back to DC – they were still investigating how he was able to move around undetected.
Authorities quickly linked the five separate shootings, saying the same gun appeared to have been used each time. Essig said on Tuesday that DC police were looking for the .22 caliber that they believed was associated with all five shootings – which had not yet been found.
Scary surveillance footage of one of the attacks in New York – which was fatal – showed a man wearing all black approaching a person wrapped in a sleeping bag on a sidewalk before pushing them with his foot and opening fire.
“He looked around. He made sure no one was there. And he deliberately took the life of an innocent person,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference Monday.
Authorities tried to warn of a possible serial killer who raped people when they were most vulnerable. Experts meanwhile said the gunman was likely to intensify his attacks only, leading to a massive manhunt with the help of federal investigators.
On Monday, Contee had approached the alleged killer directly, saying, “Our range is wide and wide, and we’ll come after you.”
Hours later, Brevard was remanded in custody, and his family traveled to fight their loved ones’ alleged descent into systematic violence against people just trying to survive.
“I last saw him three months ago at a relative’s,” Dearell Brevard, the suspect’s cousin, told The Daily Beast. “I’m just in awe.”