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Suspect in custody in series of attacks on homeless men in NYC and D.C., police say

Five people have been shot in the two cities since March 3, including a fatal shooting and stabbing of a man in the capital and a deadly shooting of a second person in Manhattan.
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A man linked to a series of shootings of homeless men in Washington, D.C., and New York City, including two slayings, was captured Tuesday, authorities said.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee III said a tip on Monday led detectives to a suspect living in the district. They zeroed in on him further after discovering images of the man at a district ATM on March 9, the same day one of the victims was found.

"We've got our man," the chief said during a press conference.

Separately, police Capt. Kevin Kentish happened to spot the same person in a photograph from New York posted to social media, Contee said.

The discovery may tie the suspect to crimes in both cities, a connection bolstered by ballistic evidence that proves the same gun was used in all five attacks, Contee said.

A senior law enforcement official identified him as 30-year-old Gerald Brevard III, a name later announced by the chief. Conti said the suspect was arrested by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives at about 2:20 a.m. on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast.

At a Manhattan press conference Tuesday, New York Police Department Chief of Detectives James W. Essig described the man in custody as both a suspect and a person of interest, and said a further determination would soon be in the hands of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

"We don't have enough to make an arrest," he said.

In D.C., police have recommended charges of first degree murder, assault with intent to kill and assault with a dangerous weapon. A spokesman for the district's U.S. Attorney's Office said no charges had been filed.

Brevard has a criminal history that includes an alleged assault on a woman in Virginia, the senior law enforcement official who initially identified him said.

That history dates back to at least 2009, records show: He has been charged with assault, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon, burglary, fraud and identity theft.

Brevard's mental competency has been called into question during at least two criminal cases against him. In a 2019 assault case in which he was found competent, he pleaded guilty and released from probation last year.

The man in custody has no arrest record in New York City, but police across the country are checking to see what links, if any, he might have to crimes in their cities, the NYPD's Essig said.

“We have all law enforcement throughout the country looking at their cases to see if there are any matches with them,” he said.

The D.C. suspect had no obvious reason to be in New York City at the time of the shootings, the chief of detectives said.

“He has no connections to New York as far as we can see," he said. "He’s mostly a D.C. guy."

In D.C., Contee said the suspect had not offered a possible motive.

The D.C. chief expressed confidence in police allegations despite lacking the gun detectives believe was used in all five attacks.

"We make cases every day where we don't have firearms," the chief said.

He credited the ATF for quickly matching ballistics evidence from both cities. Charlie J. Patterson, special agent in charge of the ATF office for the district, confirmed the match.

Five homeless men have been shot in the two cities since March 3, including a fatal shooting and stabbing of a man Wednesday in the capital and a deadly shooting of a second person Saturday in Manhattan, authorities said.

The attacks prompted an intense search, with officials in both cities pleading with the public to help them get the man off the streets. Authorities had offered up to a $70,000 reward for information that led to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

The first three attacks happened in Washington, D.C.: a 4 a.m. shooting on March 3 in which the victim survived, a 1:21 a.m. shooting on March 8 in which the victim survived, and the Wednesday death discovered when a Metropolitan Police Department officer spotted a tent fire, according to a joint statement from Washington and New York police.

The latest attacks occurred less than two hours apart Saturday in New York City, authorities said. The first shooting occurred about 4:30 a.m., when a 38-year-old man was shot while sleeping and woke up shouting, “What are you doing?” police said at a news conference.

The second shooting, the one that was fatal, is believed to have happened around 6 a.m., according to police. But they weren’t notified that a dead man was in a sleeping bag with wounds to his head and his neck until about 11 hours later. The two shootings Saturday occurred about a mile apart, police said.

The homeless attacks in two different cities were linked when a Metropolitan Police Department detective, who happens to be a former Queens resident, spotted news of the New York shootings sharing many of the same circumstances, Essig said.

"Information is exchanged and ATF is requested to help," Essig said. "From that moment on, cooperation and exchange of leads between the NYPD, the Metropolitan Police Department, the ATF and the FBI ... was extraordinary."

None of the victims’ identities were available.

In a joint statement Sunday, New York and Washington police announced that they suspected the shootings of the five homeless men are connected.

“Given the similarity in the modus operandi of the perpetrator, common circumstances involved in each shooting, the circumstances of the victims, and information from ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), we will move forward jointly investigating these homicides and shootings,” they said.

The shooter carries a semiautomatic handgun, police said.

"This man targeted those experiencing homelessness with no regard for life, but this criminal is now off the streets," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement Tuesday.

"Gun violence against anyone, let alone our most vulnerable populations, is sick, but thanks to the coordination between different levels of law enforcement and the public’s help, those experiencing homelessness can breathe a sigh of relief today," he said.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser added: "We know that this experience has been especially scary for our residents experiencing homelessness. Our work continues to end homelessness and ensure all residents have access to safe and affordable housing."

Officials from the two cities held a joint news conference Monday evening in which they urged their homeless residents to seek shelter.

Adams said Saturday in a media briefing that one of the victims is lucky to be alive.

“It’s quite possible that one of our citizens is still alive merely because he woke up,” he said. “Two individuals were shot while sleeping on the streets. Not committing a crime, but sleeping on the streets.”