A 23-year-old Louisiana man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the ambush murders of two black men.
Kenneth Gleason was taken into custody Tuesday after being arrested twice for lesser charges over the previous few days. He was being held for stealing a copy of the book “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” when he was hit with the murder charges.
Authorities said during a press conference that they believe Gleason would have killed again if he was not apprehended. It is potentially a death penalty case, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Cops believe that the slayings of 59-year-old Bruce Cofield and 49-year-old Donald Smart were racially motivated, according to Baton Rouge Sgt. L’Jean McKneely.
Investigators say Gleason has also been linked to third shooting in which he fired on the house of an African-American family in his neighborhood. No one died in that shooting.
Additionally, a copy of an Adolf Hitler speech was found at Gleason’s home.
The shell casings from both killings were the same, and cops found his DNA on the casings.
“To find DNA on spent shell casing just doesn’t happen anywhere in the nation,” District Attorney Hillar Moore said, according to WAFB.
Cofield was shot to death on Sept. 12. Two nights later, Smart was gunned down while walking to his job as a dishwasher at a cafe popular with LSU students.
Kenneth Gleason was arrested multiple times over the last several days in Baton Rouge.
(East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office)
The gunman fired from his car then walked up to the victims as they were lying on the ground and fired again multiple times, according to McKneely. Neither victim had any prior relationship with Gleason, cops say.
He didn’t bother nobody,” said Terrell Griffin, who has a food stand near where Cofield was shot in Baton Rouge. “It’s not right.”
A spokesman at LSU said a student by Gleason’s name attended during the 2013-14 school year before leaving.
Gleason was in Arizona in December, according to police and court records, and was busted for shoplifting on Dec. 28 at a Target store, according to Phoenix cops.
Mike McClanahan of the NAACP’s Baton Rouge chapter said the shootings “only added to the level of frustration and fear” that residents are feeling. The number of homicides in East Baton Rouge Parish has already surpassed last year’s total of 62, according to the Advocate.
“Right now, there is killing, period, be it racially motivated or black-on-black crime,” he said. “People are sick to their stomach and in fear of their day-to-day activities with all of these killings.”
With News Wire Services