In DC, Kentish and his team were investigating a March 9 killing of a homeless person. The detective flagged the photos to his colleagues, and they reached out to New York and federal law enforcement agencies and began comparing evidence, including shell casings left behind at the scenes.
“Our partners at the ATF tested our evidence that was recovered, they tested the evidence that was recovered in New York and we got a hit,” Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said. They were looking for the same person.
ATF agents found and arrested 30-year-old Gerald Brevard on Pennsylvania Avenue, in DC, around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said.
“We’ve got our man,” Contee said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference. “This case is an example of what happens when there is good police work, science and community support.”
In a separate news conference Tuesday, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said although authorities in New York City have not yet announced charges for the individual, they believe it is the same person as the DC suspect because they have connected the gun through ballistic evidence and his clothing through pictures.
“We don’t have enough to make an arrest, we’re working with the Manhattan District Attorney, we’re gathering all our evidence,” Essig said. “I’m very confident we’ll get there.”
‘A jarring act against a defenseless person’
The first known shooting happened around 4 a.m. on March 3 in DC, police said. Officers responded to sounds of gunshots and found a man suffering from apparent gunshot wounds, who was taken to a hospital for non-life threatening injuries.
On March 8, DC authorities responded to reports of another shooting a little after 1:20 a.m., and found a man suffering from apparent gunshot wounds who was also treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Both victims are recovering, Contee said this week.
On March 9, at about 2:52 a.m., a DC police member noticed a fire. The remains of a man — who police later identified as Holmes — were discovered and he was pronounced dead at the scene. A medical examiner determined the victim died of multiple stab and gunshot wounds.
At about 4:30 a.m. on March 12, officers in New York City responded to a 38-year-old man who had been shot in the arm while sleeping, Essig said. Roughly 90 minutes later, another man who was sleeping on a sidewalk was shot multiple times and was pronounced dead on the scene, Essig said.
“You’re kind of taken aback and you’re shocked that someone can commit such a jarring act against a defenseless person,” Essig said.
DC police contacted the NYPD Sunday morning, Essig said, and by 2 p.m., “it is confirmed that all five instances — the three in DC and the two in New York City — are a match and are a ballistics’ lead.”
Authorities say they’re still investigating how the suspect moved between the two cities, but suspect he may have taken public transportation, Essig said.
A gun has not been recovered as part of the investigation, authorities said. The suspect has had “multiple contacts with police in various states,” Essig said.
Brevard has not offered a motive, Contee said, and authorities are not certain about any connections he may have to the victims.
What advocates say the shootings highlight
As police searched for the perpetrator of the crimes, DC and New York City leaders urged homeless residents to seek shelter.
But advocates say that for some people experiencing homelessness, shelters can be unsafe and dangerous environments too, and that the recent spate of violence highlights how important it is for elected leaders to invest in ensuring housing and resources for homeless residents.
“We had said at the time that if the city was not actually investing in the types of shelters and permanent housing that people want and need, that people would just be relocated from the subways onto the streets,” Simone told the affiliate.
Adams stood by the initiative this week, telling reporters, “We are not going to allow the residents of our city to be in a position where they can’t take care of themselves or they’re dangerous to others.