Police arrest man suspected of shooting homeless in NYC, DC

Shootings over the past two weeks in New York and Washington,DC had targeted unhoused people on the streets, killing 2.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a news conference about recent shootings of homeless people in both New York and Washington, DC.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser had asked the public for help in response to recent shootings of homeless people in both United States cities [Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters]

Metropolitan Police in Washington, DC have arrested a man wanted in connection with the shootings of homeless men in the United States capital and New York City, officials said on Tuesday.

Two men were killed and three wounded in the shootings that took place over the past 10 days, with Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and her New York counterpart Eric Adams calling the alleged perpetrator a “cold-blooded killer”.

Police from both cities had posted surveillance photos of the suspect and offered a $55,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. And the mayors appealed to the public for help in the search for the gunman.

The suspect, identified by law enforcement as 30-year-old Gerald Brevard, was being interviewed by police earlier on Tuesday, Metropolitan Police said in a tweet. Authorities had said they were seeking a lone gunman linked by forensic evidence to the shooting of five homeless men in the two cities.

Brevard lives in the Washington area and has a criminal history that includes a prior arrest for assault, an official told The Associated Press. Brevard was in custody Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, the AP said.

The first shooting took place in the early hours of March 3 in northeast Washington. The victim was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to officials.

NYPD police tape marks off an area where a 43-year-old man was found dead on the street in New York City.
New York Police Department (NYPD) yellow tape marks off an area where a 43-year-old man was found dead on Sunday evening in New York City [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

A second homeless man was shot and wounded five days later, also in northeast Washington, police said. He also suffered non-life-threatening wounds.

The next day, a homeless man was found dead in northeast Washington with stab and gunshot wounds, police said. His tent, where he had been living, had caught fire.

On March 12, a 38-year-old man was shot in the arm in New York City’s Lower Manhattan during the night, police said.

About a half-hour later, police found the lifeless body of another man in a sleeping bag in the same neighbourhood. He had been shot in the head and neck.

Investigators in the two cities began to suspect a link between the shootings after a Metropolitan Police homicide captain – a former resident of New York City – saw surveillance photos released by New York police on social media.

 pedestrian walks past a bulletin posted by NYPD near the place where a homeless person was killed days earlier in lower Manhattan.
A pedestrian walks past a bulletin posted by NYPD near the place where a homeless person was killed days earlier in lower Manhattan as the search for the gunman was under way [Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP Photo]

DC Police Chief Robert Contee credited quick coordination between departments, saying that without the officer making a connection, “it could have been months” before the link between attacks was discovered.

On Monday as the manhunt was under way, both Adams and Bowser had urged anyone living on the streets to go to city shelters where they might be safer.

“We know that our unsheltered residents already face a lot of daily dangers, and it is unconscionable that anybody would target this vulnerable population,” Bowser said.

Adams said New York City police and homeless outreach teams would focus on finding unhoused people in the subways and other locations to urge them to seek refuge at city-owned shelters.

man suspected of shooting two homeless people
Images taken from surveillance video and provided by the New York Police Department show the man suspected of shooting two homeless people on March 12 in New York [New York Police Department via AP]

About 45,000 people stay each night in homeless shelters in New York City, with thousands more sleeping on the street. The city’s homeless population is about 80,000  according to US government data compiled by the charity Bowery Mission.

New York City’s mayor has been criticised by some anti-poverty advocates for his plan to remove homeless people from the city’s subway system by deploying police and mental health workers to keep people from sleeping in trains or stations.

Adams, on Monday, defended the policy, saying it was designed to protect the safety of both commuters and homeless residents.

“There is nothing dignified about allowing people to sleep on subway platforms,” he said.

In January, a homeless man with mental health problems shoved a woman in front of an oncoming subway train in Manhattan, killing her. The attack had left New York City commuters on edge.

Source: News Agencies