Two cities. Two weeks. Five shootings. Two deaths. One attacker.
Authorities in Washington, DC, and New York City said late Sunday that they believe a single man was behind a series of deadly attacks in both cities — and early Tuesday, they announced they had arrested a suspect.
In all the attacks, which first began on March 3 in DC, the victims were sleeping on the street when they were shot. All the attacks occurred in the middle of the night. And all the victims were men experiencing homelessness.
Police in DC and New York, along with federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) had been investigating the crimes together based on what they jointly described in a statement as "the similarity in the modus operandi of the perpetrator, common circumstances involved in each shooting, circumstances of the victims and recovered evidence." Analysis of bullet casings also showed the same weapon was used in each of the shootings.
On Tuesday morning, DC police said they had arrested a suspect and that homicide detectives were interviewing him. Later that afternoon, they identified him as Gerald Brevard, 30.
"We've got our man," DC Police Chief Robert Contee said at a press conference.
Brevard was arrested in DC at 2:30 a.m. by ATF agents following an anonymous tip as to his identity. He has been charged in DC with homicide, assault with a dangerous weapon, and assault with intent to kill. Further charges are expected in New York.
Contee said that he believed the attacks were "random."
"I don't know that he knew these guys," he said.
There may also have been a sixth attack, BuzzFeed News has learned, but the cause of death for that victim in New York City, who was also homeless, is still being determined.
“Our homeless population is one of our most vulnerable and an individual preying on them as they sleep is an exceptionally heinous crime," NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in a statement.
New York authorities first held a press conference late Saturday to announce an investigation into two attacks that had occurred in the early hours of that morning.
In both attacks, which occurred in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood around 4:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., a male suspect wearing a balaclava shot two men, killing one and injuring another.
The wounded man, 38, woke up when he was shot in the arm and screamed, "What are you doing," prompting his attacker to flee.
The body of the second man, who has not been identified, was inside a sleeping bag and not discovered until Saturday afternoon, about 11 hours later. He had been shot in the head and the neck.
The attacks bore obvious similarities to three others from the previous week in DC.
Around 4 a.m. on March 3, police were called to northeast DC to respond to the sound of gunshots and found a man experiencing homelessness had been wounded. He was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Five days later on March 8, police were called to the same area to find another man sleeping in the street who had been shot shortly before 1:21 a.m. local time. He too had suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Just one day later, DC police came upon a tent fire just a few blocks away. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and authorities discovered the body of a man inside. An autopsy later found he had been shot and stabbed multiple times.
On Tuesday, Chief Contee identified that victim as 54-year-old Morgan Holmes.
An NYPD spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Monday morning they were also investigating whether a sixth attack may be part of the same rampage.
On Sunday evening, police discovered the body of a 43-year-old man with a leg injury in the same Soho neighborhood. He, too, had been experiencing homelessness, but authorities are awaiting an autopsy report from the medical examiner to determine his cause of death.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke on Sunday evening about the attacks and how their officials can best coordinate to catch the killer.
"The work to get this individual off our streets before he hurts or murders another individual is urgent," the mayors said in a joint statement.
Homelessness has been on the rise across the US since 2016 amid what experts have called a national housing crisis. In New York City, almost 80,000 men, women, and children — or 1 in every 106 people — do not have homes, according to the Bowery Mission advocacy group. Almost 2,400 people sleep on the street each night.
"It's absolutely tragic and absolutely sobering to learn that on Saturday somebody was killed while sleeping outside three blocks away from our emergency shelter," Bowery Mission CEO James Winans told BuzzFeed News. "I think we always feel this urgency at the Bowery Mission to get people into shelters every single day and this certainly heightens our awareness of the life and death stakes of that work."
Winans said he was particularly distressed to learn that one man's body was not discovered by passersby for half a day.
The attacks reminded Winans of the beating deaths of four men who were homeless in 2019 by another man who was unhoused in Chinatown. The suspect in that case is still awaiting trial, but Winans said the Bowery Mission staff were devastated at the time to learn they had had relationships and connections with the victims and the suspect.
"I think it's a reminder that we are so often in the media portraying homeless people as perpetrators of violence and yet more often they are victims of violence," he said.
ATF Director Marvin Richardson noted one of the recent attacks occurred just blocks away from their DC headquarters. He said the bureau has been using their "advanced ATG systems to conduct real-time analysis" with the support of their Maryland national lab in an effort to assist the DC and NYC police. "Our three agencies are one team," Richardson said.
Winans of the Bowery Mission said he hopes people think of the victims as more than just individuals experiencing homelessness.
"Every person on the streets of New York is a person who has a name, who has a story, who has hopes, who has dreams, who we believe is a person of eternal worth and value," Winans said. "For anyone to see their life end in this way is absolutely tragic."
This story has been updated with the suspect's arrest.