Kenneth James Gleason, a white man accused of fatally shooting two black men and firing into the home of a black family in three separate September incidents, was indicted Thursday afternoon by an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury.
Gleason, 23, is charged with one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the incidents police have described as possibly racially motivated.
The grand jury's indictment on first-degree murder in the slaying of 49-year-old Donald Smart gives prosecutors the opportunity to seek the death penalty, but East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said they have not yet decided if they will.
Moore reiterated there is no need to prove Gleason's motive to reach a conviction on the charges. Moore said he will continue to rely on the "substantial" evidence collected that links Gleason to the crimes, which includes DNA, surveillance videos, purchasing history and ballistic analysis.
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Moore said although all victims in the three incidents were black, officials have not yet found or developed anything that shows Gleason's alleged actions were specifically motivated by racial hatred.
"At this point, there's no indications that it was specific (to black people)," Moore said. He said investigators are still looking for further information.
The Associated Press reported in September that a Hitler speech was found at Gleason's home, which Moore did not dispute. He said it appears Gleason had studied German in school and had translated the speech at some point. However, Moore also said investigators found a variety of other works, religious and ideological, at the home.
Gleason was arrested in mid-September on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of illegal use of a weapon, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated criminal damage to property.
Gleason is accused in the Sept. 12 slaying of Bruce Cofield, 59, who was shot dead on the side of Florida Street that night.
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Two days later, authorities say Gleason, similarly approached Smart on Alaska Street and gunned him down while he was walking to his overnight shift at Louie's Cafe.
Gleason is also accused of targeting the only black family on the block where he lived that same week, firing from a short distance at their front door. No one was injured in that shooting, although two people were in the house at the time.
Gleason is represented by attorney Chris Alexander, who has denied any guilt on behalf of his client. Alexander declined to comment on the indictments Thursday, but did emphasize that Gleason remains innocent until proven guilty, despite being formally charged.
Baton Rouge area investigators were able to link Gleason to the crimes with DNA evidence taken from at least one shell casing left behind at the scene of Cofield's killing, which matched a swab taken from Gleason.
Cofield's attack was connected to both Smart's killing and the shooting at the Sandy Ridge Drive house through ballistics found at the scenes, Moore said. Though different kinds of ammunition were used in the separate incidents, the analysis shows the bullets came from the same 9mm handgun.
No gun has been recovered in the case, Moore said, although records show Gleason purchased a 9mm handgun in November 2016.
Law enforcement have also said Cofield and Smart were killed in the same manner, alleging that Gleason shot at the pedestrians while in his car, then exited once they fell to the ground. He then stood over the victims while continuing to fire shots, Moore said. Both incidents happened around 10:30 p.m.
Police called both shootings apparently random in nature, as Gleason had no known connection to either victim.
A date for Gleason's arraignment has not been set.