Police in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday arrested a man with a history of mental illness who they suspect shot several homeless men in D.C. and New York, leaving his family members aghast at what they suggested was a stunning turn toward targeted, murderous violence.
A senior law-enforcement official first identified the suspected serial shooter as Gerald Brevard III to The Daily Beast before D.C. cops formally announced his arrest later Tuesday. The official said that the 30-year-old was unarmed when he was arrested in northeast Washington, shortly after police became aware of his name. Another law-enforcement official told The Daily Beast that police in both cities had received tips about Brevard, prompting officers and ATF agents to stake him out and eventually take him into custody.
Brevard is now facing several charges, including first-degree murder for the death of 54-year-old Morgan Holmes—whose identity was first released Tuesday afternoon—and assault with intent to kill. D.C. Chief Robert Contee noted in an afternoon press conference that the suspect had not revealed a motive, and that police had not obtained the firearm they believe was used in the shootings.
“We believe that it’s random. I don’t know that he knew these guys,” Contee told reporters. An attorney for Brevard could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Hours before Brevard’s arrest, around 5 p.m. on Monday, an Instagram account appearing to belong to him posted a photo with the caption “Feeling Devilish Feeling Godly.” The prior post has Brevard, a Washington, D.C., resident, tagged at a Manhattan event space. Contee suggested an anonymous tip and the social-media trail had helped police make an arrest.
NYPD Chief James Essig said Tuesday that so far, the suspect arrested in D.C. was only charged with the shootings in the nation’s capital. But he stressed that police believe he is the same individual who shot two homeless men—one of them fatally—in New York City. So far, Essig said, Brevard was officially a “strong person of interest” in the local shootings, as police continued to work with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
The suspect’s father, Gerald Brevard Jr., told The Daily Beast on Tuesday he was “crushed” to hear the news about his son’s arrest. He said they spoke on Monday, and Brevard “did not say anything out of the ordinary.”
“It was a normal conversation,” the father, who lives in Las Vegas, said. “But he was dealing with mental illness for the longest time. He has been in and out of mental hospitals.”
The father added that his son had never made disparaging comments about the homeless community, and now the family was “shocked, feeling so many different emotions” as they tried to understand what was going through the 30-year-old’s mind the last few weeks.
“This has all come as a surprise. I never thought he would be violent,” Brevard Jr. added. “He was always mild-mannered.” In a separate statement issued to reporters, Brevard Jr. also stressed that despite many encounters with the justice system, his son’s mental illness was never really addressed—which he said showed “how the system has failed regarding the treatment of so many.”
Dr. Barbara Bazron, the director of the Department of Behavioral Health in Washington, said Tuesday that Brevard had sought and received mental-health services with the city in the past.
While family expressed shock at his allegedly carrying out targeted—and lethal—attacks, Brevard has a long criminal history.
That history includes allegations of violent crimes, such as in July 2018, when Brevard was charged with assault after allegedly brandishing a knife and attempting to stab another individual during a dispute. In 2019, records show that Brevard was found mentally incompetent after a court-ordered exam and was temporarily committed to a city-operated psychiatric hospital.
In December 2020, Brevard was charged with assaulting a woman in Virginia. A month prior, police said, Brevard pushed a woman against a hotel hallway and assaulted her. When the woman, who suffered minor injuries, yelled for help, Brevard allegedly ran away.
“He has no connections to New York as far as we can see. He’s a D.C. guy with connections to other areas down South,” Essig said Tuesday.
Like his uncle, Dearell Brevard told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he was “totally shocked” by the news of his cousin being in police custody.
“I was not aware of his arrest… I would never expect this at all from Gerald,” he said.
The 52-year-old added that while he recently saw Brevard, the two were not particularly close. “I need to call his dad! Find out what’s going on. I can’t believe this,” he said.
Police confirmed the arrest on Twitter early Tuesday, saying the suspect was being questioned in connection with two homicides and three shootings of homeless men this month. The attacks sparked panic in both cities, with authorities warning that the man appeared to be preying on the most vulnerable community.
“We promised that we’d bring this killer to justice. We kept that promise. Thank you to all of our partners in law enforcement for their good work. Public safety is the prerequisite to prosperity,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams tweeted on Tuesday. “Keeping our streets safe means bringing our country back.”
The arrest came shortly after police released new close-up surveillance photos of the suspected serial shooter, donned in all black with a hood pulled up and a mask around his chin.
The attacks began March 3, when the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C. responded to a non-fatal shooting of a homeless man in the early hours of the morning. A similar attack was reported in the city five days later, on March 8. The next day, police say, Holmes was found dead inside a burning tent with gunshot and stab wounds.
The serial shootings then shifted to New York City, with at least two more attacks on homeless individuals in a single weekend. On Tuesday, an NYPD source told the New York Daily News that Brevard took a train from the nation’s capital to New York. Contee said on Tuesday that while authorities had some “assumptions” about how Brevard was able to travel to New York City—and back to D.C.—they were still investigating how he was able to move around undetected.
Authorities soon linked the five separate shootings, saying the same gun appeared to have been used each time. Essig said Tuesday that D.C. police were looking for the .22 caliber they believed was connected to all five shootings—which had not yet been recovered.
Chilling surveillance footage of one of the attacks in New York—which was fatal—showed a man wearing all black approach someone wrapped up in a sleeping bag on a sidewalk before nudging them with his foot and opening fire.
“He looked around. He made sure no one was there. And he intentionally took the life of an innocent person,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a Monday press conference.
Authorities scrambled to warn of a possible serial killer preying on people when they were at their most vulnerable. Experts, meanwhile, said that the gunman would likely only intensify his attacks, prompting a massive manhunt with help from federal investigators.
On Monday, Contee had addressed the alleged killer directly, saying: “Our reach is far and wide, and we’re coming for you.”
Hours later, Brevard was in custody, and his family left to grapple with the alleged descent of their loved one into systematic violence aimed at people who were just trying to survive.
“I last saw him three months ago at a relative’s house,” Dearell Brevard, the suspect’s cousin, told The Daily Beast. “I am just in awe.”