2022-09-24 06:37:55 By : Ms. Freda Hu

A D.C. grand jury on Wednesday indicted a local man on 17 criminal charges, including murder and assault, for attacks on three homeless men earlier this year — a spree of violence that sparked a massive police search in Washington and New York City, where officials feared someone was preying on vulnerable individuals.

The new indictment alleges the attacks were bias-related hate crimes, and prosecutors asserted Gerald Brevard III chose his victims because they were homeless or he believed they were homeless.

The attacks in the District occurred between March 3 and March 9. Prosecutors alleged Brevard, 31, assaulted two homeless men with a firearm, one of whom “suffered serious and permanent bodily injury.” They said Brevard fatally shot and stabbed a third victim, Morgan Holmes, 54, who was found in a tent that was set on fire along New York Avenue in Northeast Washington near Union Market.

The allegation that Brevard committed hate crimes could enhance his sentence, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in the District. Brevard faces a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole on the murder charge, if aggravating circumstances are found by a jury, the statement said.

Emails seeking comment from Brevard’s public defenders were not returned.

Brevard is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on Oct. 18 before Judge Robert Okun in D.C. Superior Court.

The series of attacks in Washington and New York sparked fear among homeless people, their families and authorities. Authorities believe Brevard was also responsible for attacks on two homeless men in New York City, one of which was fatal.

Authorities believe after the March 9 slaying of Holmes, Brevard traveled to New York City. There, a homeless man was shot in the early morning hours as he slept near the Holland Tunnel, authorities said. About 90 minutes later, police said another homeless man was fatally shot in his sleeping bag 15 blocks away.

D.C. detectives identified Brevard as a suspect using witness accounts that all gave similar clothing descriptions, as well as security camera images. Detectives determined the attacks in D.C. and New York were carried out in similar fashion, and that cellphone location data put Brevard in both cities when the attacks occurred.

Police said they have no information as to how or why Brevard apparently traveled to New York, a city to which his family and authorities said he is not known to be tied. Family members have described Brevard as being homeless himself.

D.C. police arrested Brevard on March 15. A day before his arrest, police said, Brevard posted a selfie to Instagram as the massive search was underway. The posting read: “Feeling Devilish Feeling Godly.”

According to court records, Brevard had been in and out of jails for years in Maryland, the District and Virginia on charges ranging from shoplifting and unlawful entry to attacking a bicyclist with a knife and assaulting a police officer. Most recently, he served several months in Fairfax County jail after he was arrested on an abduction charge that was reduced to misdemeanor assault in a plea agreement. Prosecutors say Brevard is still on probation from that case.