A D.C. man charged with first-degree murder while armed in connection with the July 26 shooting death of D.C. resident Randolph Scott Harris Jr., 31, told homicide detectives Harris was gay and tried to establish a relationship with him.
According to a six-page police affidavit in support of the Aug. 1 arrest of Jermaine Brown, 34, Brown allegedly shot Harris three times while attempting to rob him inside Harris’s apartment at 1034 Euclid St., N.W.
The D.C. Medical Examiner determined that Harris, who worked for a contractor that provided services for 7-Eleven stores, died of both gunshot wounds and severe burns. The affidavit says Harris appears to have been set on fire while alive and seated on a wicker chair in the living room of his apartment.
The arrest affidavit says Brown gave several conflicting versions of his actions and whereabouts on the night before Fire Department rescue workers found Harris unconscious in his apartment shortly after 6 a.m. on July 26. Police said residents in the building called 911 after they noticed smoke coming from Harris’s second-floor apartment.
The affidavit says homicide detectives linked Brown to the murder after discovering he was in possession of items missing from Harris’s apartment, including iPhones and an iPad. It says Brown later admitted using a “spare key” to take Harris’s Mercedes SUV, which was reported stolen from the apartment building where Harris lived.
“He reported that he would visit the decedent, who he called by the nickname “Man,” the police affidavit says. “[H]owever, he said he had just met Man. Defendant 1 [Brown] referred to Man as gay and that Man tried to ‘holla’ at him (tried to talk to establish a relationship),” says the affidavit.
“[H]e denied ever ‘going that way’ because something is wrong with it and he sees a problem with it,” the affidavit says in referring to Harris’s sexual orientation. “He described it as being nasty.”
The affidavit says that in a follow-up interview just prior to his arrest Brown admitted to stealing Harris’s Mercedes and then told detectives “he occasionally engaged in sex with men, but that he has never had a sexual relationship with the decedent.”
Court records show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office didn’t list the murder charge filed against Brown as a hate crime.
William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the office doesn’t comment on pending cases.
Gay activists have expressed concern over past cases in which suspects charged with killing or assaulting a gay man have invoked the so-called gay panic defense. The defense involves claims by defendants that they killed or assaulted a gay man after the gay man allegedly propositioned them for sex, causing the defendant to panic and commit a violent act that should be excused as a form of self-defense.
Anthony Lorenzo Green, a Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who is gay, said he and Harris were in a relationship in 2007 and remained close friends after the relationship ended. He said most people who knew Harris knew he was gay and that his sexual orientation did not matter.
“He was a giving person. He wouldn’t try to take advantage of anyone,” Green said. “This just burns me up that this would happen to somebody who was such a loving person.”
At the request of prosecutors, a Superior Court judge ordered Brown held without bond pending an Aug. 22 preliminary hearing, at which time prosecutors are expected to request that he be held until the time of his trial.
The local blog Homicide Watch D.C. posted a copy of the affidavit in support of Brown’s arrest on its website.
Hassan Naveed, co-chair of the D.C. group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), said the D.C. police Critical Incident Task Force, which monitors LGBT-related crimes, sent GLOV and local LGBT activists an alert informing them about Harris’s murder.
WJLA-7 News reported that family members and neighbors who knew Harris expressed shock over his death, saying he was well liked in the apartment building where he lived.
“I just can’t imagine who would do such a thing,” WJLA quoted a friend, Sabrina Kenney, as saying.
Friends and neighbors from the apartment building on Euclid Street set up a memorial for Harris directly in front of the building by placing toy stuffed animals and a poster-size placard bearing notes expressing their fondness for him on a sidewalk lamppost.
“We love you, Randy,” said one of the notes.