A man named a person of interest in two recent Baton Rouge homicides was arrested in the possibly racially motivated killings, Baton Rouge police announced on Tuesday. He was also connected to a third shooting where authorities say he shot at the home of a black family, but no one was injured.
Kenneth Gleason, 23, was booked Tuesday on two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Bruce Cofield, 59, on Sept. 12 in the 3400 block of Florida Street; and Donald Smart, 49, on Thursday in the 3000 block of Alaska Street. He was also booked on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated criminal damage to property and illegal use of weapon, according to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office.
At a news conference Tuesday, Baton Rouge Interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam called the two slayings "brutal murders" and said that if Gleason wasn't arrested, "he could have potentially created a terror in the fabric that holds this community together."
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Baton Rouge police have previously said the shootings may be racially motivated, but on Tuesday police said they would not speculate on a motive, calling it "an ongoing investigation."
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said that DNA obtained from spent shell casings found at the scene of the homicide on Florida Street on Tuesday matched a swab from Gleason, ultimately leading to his arrest in the homicides.
It’s “extremely unusual” to find DNA on shell casings, Moore said, calling it "a credit" to the collaborative effort among law enforcement in the case.
Attorney Chris Alexander for Gleason said Tuesday that he "vehemently denies guilt."
Moore said Tuesday that over the last week, several descriptions of a white male with a red car were given to law enforcement. On Saturday, an officer stopped a vehicle matching the description and took Gleason into custody, where he was questioned. Search warrants were issued, which led to Gleason's arrest on two unrelated drug counts.
Gleason posted a $3,500 bond and was released from prison on Sunday.
On Monday, Gleason was arrested again on a theft that occurred Wednesday at a book store on Towne Center Boulevard. Moore said that Gleason is accused of stealing a copy of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy."
He was booked into prison on one count of theft and released on a $500 bond early Tuesday.
Gleason was named as a person of interest in the killings over the weekend, but police said then that they did not have enough evidence to arrest him on murder counts.