WBRZ: Suspect Arrested In "Racially Motivated" Attacks

 

(WBRZ News 2) Kenneth Gleason was arrested on new charges overnight and WBRZ learned early Tuesday, Gleason will be charged with the high-profile slayings of two black men and multiple counts of attempted murder.

The information was revealed to the WBRZ Investigative Unit ahead of a news conference Tuesday morning.  

Gleason faces murder charges for the deaths in the city limits of Baton Rouge and an attempted murder charge related to an attack somewhere in East Baton Rouge Parish.

District Attorney Hillar Moore says DNA found on shell casings at one of the murder scenes led to Gleason's latest arrest. This is the newest information and the closest tie made to Gleason and the deaths last week of the two men - a homeless man and a popular restaurant employee.

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office added that Gleason is also accused of firing shots into a neighboring home on Sandy Ridge. The home was occupied at the time of the shooting, but no one was reported injured. 

Witnesses of the first deadly shooting on Sept. 12 reported seeing a white male in tactical gear leaving the scene in a red vehicle. Police later arrived at the scene on Florida Boulevard to find 59-year-old Bruce Cofield shot to death. 

Police say a second victim, Donald Smart, was shot 10 times on Alsaska Street two days later. Again, authorities say a red vehicle and, potentially, a white male were spotted near the scene. The shell casing found at the two scenes were also identical.


Authorities began searching for the vehicle, which was seen in surveillance video from both scenes. An officer then spotted the red vehicle on Saturday and took its driver, Gleason, into custody.

Police have since noted on multiple occasions that evidence leads them to believe the shootings were racially motivated. On Tuesday, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press that a copy of a speech by Adolf Hitler was found inside Gleason's home.

Gleason, identified by police as a person of interest in the shootings last week, was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison just after midnight, Tuesday morning on new theft charges. Gleason faces a single theft charge, according to prison records.  He'd also been arrested last week on drug charges but had not been formally charged in the deaths of the men.

Booking records show investigators responded to a call at the Books-A-Million location in Towne Center regarding the theft of a book last Wednesday morning. 

Deputies say Gleason walked past all points of sale with the book and exited the store without paying for it. Documents go on to show Gleason was picked out of a photo line up by an employee of the store familiar with the incident.

Gleason is the only person identified publicly by Baton Rouge Police as having been questioned by detectives.The shootings have captured the national spotlight and featured on Good Morning America Tuesday morning because officers say, the shootings could be racially motivated. 

The pair of shootings happened last week on Florida Boulevard near North Acadian and Alaska Street in Old South Baton Rouge. The incidents resulted in the deaths of 59-year-old Bruce Cofield and 49-year-old Donald Smart. Both men died from their gunshot injuries at the scenes.

Photo: Brittany Weiss/WBRZ

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