NEW YORK – A man wanted in a string of shootings targeting men experiencing homelessness in New York and Washington was arrested early Tuesday, police said.
The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington announced the arrest Tuesday, saying the suspect was arrested around 2:30 am after agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spotted him while canvassing the southeast area of the city.
Authorities identified him as Gerald Brevard, 30, and noted he has an arrest history that includes assaulting an officer in Washington. He was temporarily committed to Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington for a competency assessment, found competent and released back to jail, according to Barbara Bazron, director of Behavioral Health in DC
In 2018, Brevard was also enrolled for help in the city for behavioral health services, Bazron added.
The Metropolitan Police Department said no motive had been established, and Chief Robert Contee said the attacks appeared to be random. At least five men were shot, two fatally, since March 3 in a series of attacks in both cities that police say are connected.
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“We hope Brevard’s arrest provides a sense of closure for you but also relief to our vulnerable homeless population here in the District of Columbia,” Contee said. “This case is an example of what happens when there is good police work, science and community support.”
Brevard will face charges that include first-degree murder, assault with the intent to kill and assault with a dangerous weapon, Contee said, adding additional charges are possible.
The NYPD said the departments were jointly investigating given the similar circumstances of the shootingsevidence recovered and “information from ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.”
Charlie J. Patterson, the ATF Washington Field Division special agent in charge, said in a statement that the agency’s ballistic information network was “particularly crucial in this investigation, allowing us to quickly match ballistic evidence connecting all five shootings to the same firearm.”
James Essig, NYPD’s chief of detectives, said at a Tuesday news conference that the department sent detectives to Washington as Metropolitan Police interview the man who was arrested. Essig said the NYPD had not yet made an arrest, but the suspect in Washington was a “strong person of interest.”
A “sharp” detective with the Metropolitan Police Department, a former New York resident, saw the NYPD’s social media post about the case and realized it matched the shootings in Washington, Essig said.
At each scene, .22-caliber shell casings were found, which helped further link the cases, Essig said. Tips from the audience were “instrumental” in the case, he said.
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“We promised that we’d bring this killer to justice. We kept that promise,” Mayor Eric Adams of New York tweeted Tuesday.
“We know that this experience has been especially scary for our residents experiencing homelessness,” Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington added in a statement. “Our work continues to end homelessness and ensure all residents have access to safe and affordable housing.”
Three men were shot in separate incidents in Washington between March 3 and March 9, the departments said. One man was found dead when a police officer spotted a tent on fire.
In New York, two men around the SoHo neighborhood were shot in separate incidents. One man yelled after he was shot in the forearm, and the shooter ran away, NYPD Deputy Chief Hank Saunter said at a news conference Saturday. Essig said the victim mimicked calling 911 before the shooter fled.
Video showed the moment the assailant shot the other man hours later, and police said he was found dead with gunshot wounds to the head.
The suspect is not believed to have ties to New York, Essig said. Police believe he traveled to the city via public transportation, as he was spotted at Penn Station before the shootings, Essig said.
Adams and Bowser called the suspect a “cold-blooded killer” and the shootings “heartbreaking and tragic.”
Advocates for people experiencing homelessness said the killings are a grim reminder of the vulnerability and stigmatization facing the homeless population on a daily basis.
In New York City, nearly 50,000 people experiencing homelessness were in shelters in December, according to New York’s Coalition for the Homeless. Last year, there were about 5,000 people experiencing homelessness in Washington, according to the nonprofit Community Partnership.
Contributing: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY