Relatives of the suspect in homeless attacks in D.C. and NYC say he was once homeless and has mental health issues

The man arrested in the alleged slaying of a homeless man in Washington, D.C., who is also a person of interest in the killing of a second vagrant man in New York City, is a “good person” who has been let down by the judicial system, which has failed to treat his mental illness, his father said.

Gerald Brevard III, 30, who was arrested Tuesday in the nation’s capital on recommended charges of first-degree murder, assault with intent to kill and assault with a dangerous weapon, has had brushes with the law, but the judicial system has failed to recognize his mental illness, his father, Gerald Brevard Jr., said in a statement Wednesday.

“He is a good person and like many across the world, he suffers from mental illness. The bigger picture is not that he has mental illness, but the number of times that he’s been within the judicial system and how the system has failed regarding the treatment of so many, including my son,” the elder Brevard said.

He added that he only recently learned about his son’s arrest and doesn’t know details of the allegations against him.

Brevard has been homeless and lived among the vulnerable population he is accused of attacking, said his grandfather Gerald Brevard Sr.

Relatives of the suspect in homeless attacks in D.C. and NYC say he was once homeless and has mental health issues
Police investigate after a homeless man was found shot to death Sunday on Murray and Greenwich streets in New York City.Gardiner Anderson / Tribune News Service via Getty Images file

Brevard Sr. told NBC New York he is hurt by the allegations.

“My grandson has suffered with mental problems for a while, so I just hate that anything like this happened,” he said. “I’m hurt … and like I said, I offer my prayers and condolences to the victims.”

He added: “I’m deeply saddened about the victims, everyone that was injured and killed. My condolences to the families of the victims.”

Authorities in Washington and New York City have said Brevard is suspected in five attacks on homeless men while they slept beginning March 3. The violence included a fatal shooting and a stabbing in the capital March 9 and a deadly shooting of a second homeless man Saturday in Manhattan, police said.

The attacks prompted an intense search, with officials in both cities pleading with the public to help them get the shooter off the streets. Authorities had offered a reward of up to a $70,000 for information that led to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

Washington Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said a tip Monday led detectives to a suspect living in the city. They zeroed in on him further after they discovered images of him at an ATM on March 9, the day one of the victims was found.

“We’ve got our man,” Contee said at a news conference.

Separately, Police Capt. Kevin Kentish happened to spot the same person in a photograph from New York on social media, Contee said.

The discovery may tie the suspect to crimes in both cities, a connection bolstered by ballistic evidence that proves the same gun was used in all five attacks, Contee said.

At a news conference Tuesday in Manhattan, New York Police Chief of Detectives James W. Essig described the man in custody as both a suspect and a person of interest and said a further determination would soon be in the hands of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

“We don’t have enough to make an arrest,” he said.

Brevard has a criminal history that includes an allegation of assault on a woman in Virginia, said a senior law enforcement official who initially identified him.

That history dates to at least 2009, records show: He has been charged with assault, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon, burglary, fraud and identity theft.

Brevard’s mental competence has been called into question in at least two criminal cases. He pleaded guilty in a 2019 assault case in which he was found competent and was released from probation last year.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington said Brevard is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

Jonathan Dienst contributed.