Three homeless people were shot multiple times as they slept on the streets of Washington between March 3 and March 9. Last Saturday, two other homeless people were victims of a similar attack in New York. In each city a homeless person died. Police arrested Gerald Brevard III, 30, identified as the suspect in the murders on Tuesday. The young man has a criminal record and is “mentally incompetent,” according to a 2019 court-ordered psychiatric examination.
Police in the cities of Washington and New York had been searching for the attacker for several days, who had the most vulnerable community in society in anguish while they slept at night. Community workers from both cities were in charge of distributing photographs of the suspect in the camps where the homeless congregate, increasingly frequent in the US capital. They also invited homeless people to sleep in shelters to ensure their safety.
A police officer with the Washington homicide bureau saw images of the suspect in the New York assaults on social media over the weekend and recognized the face of the man his department was trying to capture. Helped by the community of neighbors, the agents of the office for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) arrested Brevard this morning in the southeast of the capital, according to spokeswoman Whitney Cruse, who added that he did not recover the firearm used in the attacks.
Brevard had a criminal record for misdemeanors and felony offenses committed in Washington and Northern Virginia, including multiple counts of assault. After being declared mentally incompetent in 2019, the capital’s Department of Behavioral Health ordered him to be temporarily committed to Saint Elizabeths Psychiatric Hospital. If confirmed as the attacker, the tragic story brings together three of America’s biggest crises: homelessness, guns, and lack of support for people with mental health problems.
The first shooting allegedly by Brevard occurred around 4 a.m. in northeast Washington, when a homeless man was shot in the back and right shoulder while sleeping, he told police. The second was on March 8, when a man was injured shortly before 1:30 in the morning. In the early hours of the next day, police and firefighters found a homeless man dead inside a burning tent. The autopsy revealed that he had died of multiple stab and gunshot wounds.
Days later, the killer traveled to upstate New York, according to police. At 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, a 38-year-old man sleeping on the streets of Manhattan was shot in the right arm. About an hour and a half later, the attacker shot another man in the head and neck. The victim died in Soho.
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“We know that this experience has been especially terrifying for our homeless residents. Our work continues to end homelessness and ensure everyone has access to safe and affordable housing,” Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a joint statement with her New York counterpart Eric Adams.
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