23-year-old Kenneth Gleason has been arrested and charged with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder after a string of what police called probably “racially motivated” attacks. 59-year-old Bruce Cofield, a homeless man, was shot by Gleason in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while 49-year-old Donald Smart was shot in a separate incident as he was walking to his workplace, a local cafe near Louisiana State University where Smart washed dishes. In both cases, it is believed that Gleason shot them from a car and then finished the job by getting out and firing subsequent bullets as the victims were already on the ground. In a third incident, police suspect he was responsible for shots fired at a home of an African-American family, although no one was injured in that particular incident.
Baton Rouge Interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam talked about Gleason’s capture, essentially calling him dangerous and expressing his fear that, had Gleason not been captured, “[he] could have potentially created a tear in the fabric that holds this community together.” The Baton Rouge police specifically charged Gleason with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of attempted first degree murder, aggravated criminal damage to property and the illegal use of a firearm. According to East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore, the prosecution is aiming to have the death penalty brought upon Gleason for his crimes. Tensions are high in Baton Rouge since last year, where Baton Rouge resident Alton Sterling, a black man, was shot dead by police, which led to a retaliatory attack of three police officers two weeks later.
Gleason’s lawyer, Christopher Alexander, has released a statement denying guilt, while saying that they “look forward to complete vindication” as his case goes to court. Gleason had just left jail after posting bail for theft charges when he began his string of attacks. The 23-year-old, whose DNA was found on shell casings at the two major crime scenes, was later discovered to have literature on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as well as a stash of cannabis. Despite what was found in his apartment, those who knew Gleason were surprised to find that Gleason committed these crimes, as most characterized him as a quiet individual who never really showed anger outwardly. Those who knew him intimately, including Matthew Drago, a former roommate of Gleason’s, did note that he occasionally displayed impulsive behavior. However, Drago also notes that, while his studies of the German language led to accumulation of German literature, Gleason was also a connoisseur of literature relating to Eastern and Buddhist philosophy. As for more recently, he was spotted shoplifting $30 worth of merchandise from a Target in Phoenix, Arizona, although those charges were dismissed. In the last couple of months, local Baton Rouge residents had spotted Gleason intermittently living out of his car, parked outside his parents’ house.