A White Baton Rouge man accused of fatally shooting two Black men and firing into the home of a Black family, all in September 2017, searched the internet that same month for topics such as White nationalism, genocide, Nazi propaganda and gun silencers, an FBI agent testified Wednesday at the trial of the alleged serial killer.

The day after Kenneth Gleason allegedly fired three shots on Sept. 11, 2017, through the front door of the home of the only Black family on his block of Sandy Ridge Drive in the Hickory Ridge subdivision, Gleason searched the web for "aggravated assault on property," special agent Jeff Methvin said.

That incident was the first of what prosecutors have called a "4-day streak of terror" that Gleason, 27, allegedly inflicted on Baton Rouge.

Gleason is accused of gunning down Bruce Cofield the night of Sept. 12, 2017, as the homeless man sat at a bus stop near the intersection of Florida Boulevard and South Acadian Thruway. Prosecutors say that, the next morning, Gleason searched the internet for 'best Nazi generals,' 'The Most Dangerous Game' (a short story about a big-game hunter who turns to human hunting), and 'preliminary hearing' (a legal term in criminal cases), Methvin testified.

Gleason also is accused of fatally shooting Donald Smart the night of Sept. 14, 2017, as the Louie's Cafe dishwasher walked down Alaska Street north of the LSU campus to his overnight shift. The next morning, Gleason was searching two local television websites for stories on that killing, as well as the Zodiac killer and serial killers, the special agent said.

Finally, on the morning of Sept. 16, 2017, Gleason searched for information on Louisiana license plate laws, the penalty for not having a license plate in the state, and how to obtain a fake license plate, Methvin said.

A former employee of Custom Security Systems in Baton Rouge had testified Tuesday that she observed Gleason drive a red Ford Focus into the business's parking lot the morning of Sept. 12, 2017, remove the license plate and place duct tape over the vehicle's identifying markings.

Before Methvin was allowed to testify about Gleason's internet searches in September 2017, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Fulton argued to state District Judge Beau Higginbotham that, even though prosecutors don't have to prove a motive in the first-degree murder case, they have a right to do so.

Fulton noted that all of Gleason's alleged victims were Black.

"The timing of these searches is very important," she added.

One of Gleason's attorneys, Ashly Earl, argued that Gleason's internet searches are not relevant and will only prejudice him.

Jarrett Ambeau, who also represents Gleason, suggested to Methvin that Gleason's web searches were "vast in scope," including information on saints and painters, and that the information he sought was both good and bad.

Methvin agreed that Gleason's search history was "very, very diverse and eclectic."

Gleason was detained in the afternoon on Sept. 16, 2017, and booked in the killings three days later.

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On Wednesday a former worker at a Jiffy Lube on Coursey Boulevard identified Gleason during her testimony as the man she saw retrieve a gun from a flower bed outside the store the morning of Sept. 11, 2017. She said the red Focus did not have a license plate at the time.

Prosecutor Dana Cummings has suggested previously that Gleason “dumped” the gun at the Jiffy Lube after the Sandy Ridge shooting and then returned to the store to retrieve it.

Chuck Smith, an investigator with the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office, testified that the Jiffy Lube is seven tenths of a mile from Sandy Ridge Drive, which is off of Coursey.

The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab determined that casings recovered from all three shooting scenes were fired from the same 9 mm gun, but the weapon has never been found.

Prosecutors have said Gleason is linked to Cofield's killing and the nonfatal shooting through DNA evidence, and to both deadly shootings and the nonfatal incident through ballistics evidence.

Zac Woodring, a Baton Rouge police detective, testified Wednesday that Gleason's cellphone records placed his phone in the Highland Road Park area the night of Sept. 15, 2017, but several days of searching for a gun by law enforcement proved fruitless.

Jim's Firearms president Jim McClain testified that Gleason bought a CZ 9 mm with a 15-round magazine from the Baton Rouge retail store on Nov. 9, 2016.  Gleason also paid for a silencer on July 20, 2017, but never received it because a background check was not approved.

Earl, suggested that Gleason's arrest in September 2017 was likely the reason for the disapproval. McClain said he was not given a reason.

Gleason's lawyers have said he studied German at LSU. He attended the university for one year starting in the fall of 2012.

The trial, which is in its second week, will resume Thursday.

Gleason is charged with first-degree murder in Smart's killing, second-degree murder in Cofield's slaying, and two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the nonfatal shooting on Sandy Ridge Drive.

He's standing trial only in Smart's killing, but evidence from the Cofield homicide and the nonfatal shooting also is being introduced at the trial. Gleason faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged in Smart's death. The verdict must be unanimous.

Prosecutors chose not to pursue the death penalty after consulting with Smart's family.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.