Kenneth Gleason charged with murder, attempted murder, other charges in random shootings

Kenneth Gleason (Photo Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – Kenneth Gleason is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the apparently random deadly shootings of two black men in Baton Rouge last week, authorities said Tuesday.

Gleason, 23, was brought in for questioning last Saturday but was not initially charged with the shootings. He was detained on drug charges but bonded out of jail Sunday.

The first of the two shootings killed Bruce Cofield, 59, last Tuesday. Two nights later, Donald Smart, 49, was fatally shot as he was walking on Alaska Street to work his job at Louie’s Cafe, near LSU. Police have said they believe the shootings were likely racially motivated.

Sources told WAFB a handwritten Hitler speech was found inside Gleason’s home during a search.

Authorities said he is also being charged in connection with the shooting of a black family’s home on Sandy Ridge Drive near his parents’ house.

The Baton Rouge Police Department reported it is charging Gleason with two counts of first-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office reported it is charging Gleason with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated criminal damage to property, and illegal use of a weapon.

“I feel confident that this killer could have killed again,” Dunnam said.

Just prior to the news conference announcing the arrest and charges against Gleason, he was walked from the Violent Crimes Unit to a police car and driven to the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison for booking.

District Attorney Hillar Moore painted a shocking picture of Gleason’s alleged preparation for the killings, including buying multiples types of ammunition. He explained the suspect used three different types of ammo in three separate shootings. He also said the suspect bought a 9mm in November 2016 and bought a silencer in July 2017. Moore added Gleason likely removed the tags from his car at some point.

Moore said the suspect’s DNA was found on shell casings, which he said normally “does not happen.”

“To find DNA on spent shell casing just doesn’t happen anywhere in the nation,” Moore said in giving high praise for quality police work by investigators.

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux also praised the quality work by law enforcement in Baton Rouge.

“This is something the nation needs to look at,” Gautreaux said.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said she’s thankful law enforcement has gotten a suspected murderer off the streets.

“I’m aware of their hard work,” Broome said. “I’m committed to doing everything I can to ensure law enforcement has everything they need to succeed.”

Sgt. L’Jean McKneely, a spokesman with BRPD, said detectives still believe the crimes were racially motivated, but the investigation is ongoing to determine for sure.

Moore said while the suspect is innocent until proven guilty, the case “would qualify for the death penalty.”

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