February 15, 2018 at 9:48 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Disturbing details in murder of D.C. lesbian
Ashton Briscoe, gay news, Washington Blade, Kerrice Lewis

Ashton Briscoe is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of lesbian Kerrice Lewis. (Photo courtesy P.G. County State’s Attorney’s Office)

A D.C. man charged last week with first-degree murder while armed for the Dec. 28 shooting death of lesbian Kerrice Lewis, 23, whose bullet riddled body was found inside the trunk of her burning car, may not have been the person who shot her, according prosecutors and a police charging document.

D.C. police have said there is no evidence so far to indicate Lewis was targeted because of her sexual orientation. But although police have speculated over the reason for her murder based on unconfirmed reports by numerous tipsters, they have yet to determine a definitive motive.

However, in an arrest affidavit filed on Monday in D.C. Superior Court, police homicide detectives present clear evidence that Lewis’s murder is linked to two other murders of young men who she knew that took place on the same day as her murder.

The affidavit says ballistics tests show that Lewis and her friend Armani Nico Coles, 27, whose body was believed to have been dumped out of a car along Interstate 295 just across the D.C. line in Capitol Heights, Md., about one hour before Lewis’ body was found, were each shot to death by the same .45 caliber handgun.

Prince George’s County police on Jan. 9 charged Malique Nathan Lewis, 20, a resident of Southeast D.C., with first-degree murder for Coles’ death. The affidavit in support of Briscoe’s arrest doesn’t say whether Malique Lewis and Kerrice Lewis are related.

The affidavit says an autopsy report shows that Kerrice Lewis was shot 15 times and it was the gunshot wounds rather than the flames that engulfed her car that killed her.

The affidavit was filed in support of the Feb. 10 arrest by D.C. police of Ashton Briscoe, 23, for Lewis’ murder. It says witnesses saw two men standing over the trunk of Lewis’ 1998 Lexus minutes after they heard the sound of gunfire in an alley where the Lexus was parked off of the 800 block of Adrian Street, S.E. about 7:20 p.m.

At least one of the witnesses reported seeing the two unidentified men run away from the Lexus seconds after it was consumed in flames and enter another car through the rear passenger seat and front passenger seat, with a third person in the driver’s seat, the affidavit says. It says the witness reported the car then sped away from the alley.

According to the arrest affidavit, when detectives first questioned Briscoe about Lewis’ murder he denied he had anything to do with it. But when confronted with evidence that police tracked his cell phone calls and signals, which placed him at the site of the murder, he confessed that he was at the scene only as the driver of the getaway car and he had no prior knowledge that one of two other people he was with at the scene planned to kill Lewis, the affidavit says.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Saunders, a prosecutor who appeared in court during Briscoe’s presentment hearing on Monday, Feb. 12, seemed to partially back up Briscoe’s alibi, according to an account by the Washington Post. The Post quoted Saunders as saying Briscoe’s role in the murder was “to serve as a lookout for witnesses and law enforcement.”

Under D.C.’s criminal code, anyone who aids and abets the commission of a murder or is part of a conspiracy or plan to murder someone can be legally charged with the murder, even if they were not the person who fired a gun or used another means to kill the victim.

Among other things, the affidavit cites cell phone records obtained by investigators for Briscoe’s phone and the phone of the other two suspects Briscoe identified as being at the scene of the murder that show the three had communicated with each other on their respective phones earlier in the day.

Phone signals also show, according to the affidavit, that Briscoe was at or near the site of where Coles’ body was dumped out of a car along I-295 one hour prior to Lewis’ murder.

Citing more than a half dozen tips from people who knew Lewis, Briscoe and the other two suspects, the affidavit speculates that one possible motive for Kerrice Lewis’ murder could have been revenge for her association and possible friendship with the man charged with killing Ronzay Green. Green was shot to death in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven at 950 Eastern Ave., N.E. about 11:20 a.m. on Feb. 28.

On Dec. 31, D.C. police arrested Dennis Whitaker, 23, of Northeast Washington, for Green’s murder. The affidavit says Kerrice Lewis was a “known associate” of both Whitaker and Coles, whom police believe was shot and dumped from the car several hours after Green was killed outside the 7-Eleven.

The affidavit says detectives learned through cell phone chatter and phone signal locations that Whitaker and a person identified only as Suspect 1, who, along with Briscoe, were “associates” of Green, visited Prince George’s County Hospital, where Green was taken after he was shot. Although it doesn’t say so directly, the affidavit implies that their visit to the hospital to see their dying friend lends support for the theory that Green’s death prompted at least Malique Lewis and Suspect 1 to decide to kill Coles and Kerrice Lewis in retaliation for Green’s murder.

Malique Lewis has not been charged in Kerrice Lewis’ murder. Neither the affidavit nor prosecutors at Briscoe’s court hearing on Monday disclosed whether or not Malique Lewis and Kerrice Lewis were related.

In discussing Briscoe’s alibi, the affidavit says Briscoe told detectives that on the night of Kerrice Lewis’ murder Malique Lewis gave him the key to a car that turned out to belong to Coles, a black 2017 Toyota Camry, and asked him to drive the car and follow Malique Lewis, who would be driving another car that turned out to be Kerrice Lewis’ Lexus. It says Briscoe insisted he did not know the two cars belonged to the deceased Coles and soon-to-be deceased Kerrice Lewis.

The affidavit says Briscoe claimed he complied with Malique Lewis’ request and followed Malique Lewis to the alley off of Adrian Street.

“Once in the alley, Defendant Briscoe advised that Malique Lewis suddenly stopped the blue Lexus,” the affidavit says, adding that Malique Lewis told Briscoe to drive the Camry back to the entrance of the ally and wait there because Malique Lewis “needed to get something.”

“Approximately ten minutes after parking near the mouth of the alley, Defendant Briscoe heard the sounds of gunshots,” the affidavit says. “Defendant Briscoe then observed Malique Lewis and an individual identified by Defendant Briscoe by first and last name, hereinafter referred to as Subject #1, running away from the blue Lexus and towards the car he was in,” the affidavit continues.

It says Briscoe recounted that Subject #1 entered the Camry through a rear door and Malique Lewis entered the vehicle through the front passenger door and sat in the passenger seat while “holding a Glock 21 pistol.” Police said later the gun actually was a .45 caliber pistol believed to have been used to shoot Kerrice Lewis and Coles.

The affidavit concludes by saying shortly after Coles’ body was found dumped on the side of the freeway “the phones used by Defendant Briscoe, Malique Lewis, and Subject #1 were in the vicinity of the Armani Coles’ homicide.”

The affidavit adds, “Following this, investigators were able to determine that the cellular phones used by Defendant Briscoe, Malique Lewis and Subject #1 moved 2-3 miles south from the Armani Coles homicide to the area of the Kerrice Lewis homicide. All three phones were in the area of the Kerrice Lewis homicide at or near the time of her murder.”

While the affidavit goes into great detail on some aspects of the three murders it does not say how or where Malique Lewis obtained possession of Kerrice Lewis’ Lexus or where and when Kerrice Lewis was placed in the trunk of her car. Similarly, it doesn’t say where Malique Lewis allegedly shot Coles and how he or someone else obtained possession of Coles’ car before Coles’ body was dumped along the side of I-295.

According to Maryland court records, 10 days before Kerrice Lewis’s murder in D.C. Briscoe allegedly participated along with six other men in an armed robbery in which the men stole $10,000 from a man outside his home in Temple Hills, Md. A Prince George’s County police charging document says several of the men participating in the robbery were carrying AK-47 assault rifles.

The records from Prince George’s County District Court show that Briscoe was arrested in connection with the incident on Jan. 10 and charged with eight criminal offenses, including armed robbery, assault first-degree, firearm use in a violent crime, and theft of between $1,500 and $25,000.  The court records show he was released from jail pending trial on Feb. 9 after posting $3,500 for his share of a $35,000 bond.

His release came just one day before D.C. police arrested him for the Kerrice Lewis murder. D.C. Superior Court records show he has been ordered held without bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 22.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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