A 17-year-old D.C. male charged with the Jan. 10 shooting death of gay Maryland resident Gordon Rivers told police he knew the man and invited him to the location where Rivers was shot during an alleged botched robbery, according to a police affidavit.
William X. Wren was ordered held without bond during a Jan. 29 arraignment in D.C. Superior Court on charges of first- and second-degree murder and assault with intent to kill while armed, all in connection with River’s death.
Rivers, 47, a resident of Brandywine, Md., was found laying in the street suffering multiple gunshot wounds in front of 2641 Naylor Road, S.E., at about 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 by an off-duty police officer, says the affidavit.
It says police arrested Wren after he voluntarily appeared at the police homicide squad office for an interview Jan. 28. It says Wren told detectives he knew Rivers and contacted him by phone to invite him for a visit near where Wren lived in Southeast D.C.
According to the affidavit, Wren allegedly shot Rivers inside Rivers’ car during a robbery shortly after Rivers drove to the area in his black Cadillac on Jan. 10.
The U.S. Attorney’s office charged Wren as an adult, resulting in the release of the three-page arrest affidavit that details the case against him. But the affidavit does not disclose whether Rivers’ sexual orientation was a factor in his murder or the nature of his relationship with Wren.
Benjamin Friedman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the investigation into the murder is continuing and neither his office nor the police could provide additional details, such as how Rivers and Wren met each other.
People who knew Rivers told DC Agenda he was a regular customer of the D.C. gay bar Bachelor’s Mill, located near the Washington Navy Yard, which is about five miles from the area where he was killed.
One Bachelor’s Mill customer who knew Rivers said Rivers never mentioned having any ties to the Naylor Road, S.E., neighborhood where he was shot. However, the customer noted that the Naylor Road area is along the route Rivers would take to drive from his home in Brandywine to Bachelor’s Mill.
A law enforcement source said an area near where Rivers was shot has been known as a clandestine cruising spot for men seeking other men for sex.
The affidavit says the off-duty officer heard gunshots and observed “muzzle flash” from within a black Cadillac parked on the 2600 block of Naylor Road. It says the officer saw a youth, later identified as Wren, leave the car via the front passenger door while carrying a handgun. The youth then fled the scene.
“The officer observed a male subject, who was later identified as 47-year-old Gordon Rivers, exit the driver’s side door and walk to the rear of the vehicle where he collapsed,” says the affidavit.
Police said Rivers was taken by ambulance to Washington Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
According to the affidavit, Wren voluntarily appeared at the police homicide office Jan. 28 and agreed to be interviewed about the case.
It says his appearance followed an earlier interview by homicide detectives of a witness who told detectives he knew Wren. The witness told detectives he overheard Wren and another man, whom police identify only as an “accomplice,” talk about robbing someone, says the affidavit.
It says the witness told police he saw the accomplice hand Wren a pistol moments before Wren entered Rivers’ car. According to the affidavit, the witness said he heard the sound of multiple gunshots coming from inside the car a short time later. It says the witness then saw Wren exit Rivers’ Cadillac and flee the scene.
The affidavit says that in the days following the murder, the witness reported hearing Wren say he shot Rivers “during the botched robbery attempt.”
The affidavit says Wren told detectives during his Jan. 28 police interview that he lives with the mother of his children on the 2400 block of S St., S.E., which is close to where he arranged to meet Rivers on the day of the shooting. He arranged to meet Rivers “for the purpose of robbing him of money and marijuana,” the affidavit says he told the detectives.
It says Wren told detectives he entered Rivers’ car unarmed with the intent that his accomplice would enter the car a short time later with a gun, and the two would carry out the robbery. But according to Wren, Rivers pulled out his own gun when Wren told him “not to move,” and the two men got into a struggle over the gun.
“William Wren said that he took the decedent’s gun,” says the affidavit. “Then, he and the decedent fought over the gun. During the struggle, the gun went off and the decedent was shot multiple times. William Wren said that he exited the vehicle while still in possession of the decedent’s gun and fled on foot.”
During the arraignment, defense attorney Ronald Horton challenged the credibility of the witness who told police Wren was in possession of a gun as he entered Rivers’ car. Horton asked Judge-Magistrate Karen Howze to approve a motion to dismiss the case due to lack of sufficient evidence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Tonolli, the prosecutor in the case, disputed Horton’s assessment. He said the evidence was strong and overwhelming and the witness was reliable — and that Wren’s claim that the gun belonged to Rivers lacked credibility.
Howze denied the defense motion, saying she found “substantial probability that Mr. Wren did commit this offense.” She denied a second motion by Horton that Wren be released into the custody of his mother, ordering that Wren be held without bond.
She set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 10, where Judge Herbert Dixon would take over the case and determine whether Wren was eligible for release while awaiting trial.
“The motive sounds like robbery, and it’s unclear if the victim was killed because he was gay,” said Dale Edwin Sanders, a gay attorney who practices criminal law in D.C.
“One unanswered question is whether the police found any pot in the car or in the possession of the victim,” Sanders said. “If there was no pot, the police would have to look closer at a possible gay angle. What brought them together in the car at that time?”