A D.C. police homicide detective testified at a Superior Court hearing on Tuesday that an argument over money appears to be what prompted defendant David Bright, 29, to allegedly shoot two gay men to death on Feb. 18 inside a group house at 509 58th St., N.E. where the three lived.
Det. Marvin Washington testified that an eyewitness to the incident who also lived in the house told police that Bright shot Clifton David Francis, 51, and David Aumon Watkins Jr., 45, multiple times while in a rage and acting as if he were “crazy.”
Police and prosecutors have not publicly identified the two victims as gay. But law enforcement sources familiar with the case have told the Washington Blade the two were gay and that Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, and Officer Zunnobia Hakir, a member of the LGBT unit, were called to the scene on the day of the murders.
“This case remains under investigation,” said William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case. “However, based on the charging documents and court testimony, you can state that there are no allegations that this is a hate crime,” said Miller, who noted that the incident “is believed to involve a dispute over money.”
At the time of his arrest, police charged Bright with first-degree murder while armed.
At the preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Det. Washington appeared to confirm that at least one of the two victims was gay. In response to a question by defense attorney Dominique Winters, he said that the eyewitness to the murders had been in a “romantic relationship” with one of the two victims.
Washington answered the question after Judge Jose Lopez overruled an objection by Assistant U.S. Attorney Magdalena Acevedo, the lead prosecutor in the case, who said the line of questioning was not germane to the case.
Although Washington was careful not to disclose the witness’s gender, referring to the person as Witness 1 or “it,” both Winters and Lopez at various times referred to the witness as “he” or “him.” A law enforcement source also confirmed that Witness 1 is a man.
In her arguments urging Lopez to rule that there was insufficient evidence to find probable cause that the case should proceed to a full trial, Winters suggested that Witness 1 was “biased” against her client and biased toward the decedents because of his romantic relationship with one of the decedents.
Prosecutor Acevedo took strong exception to the argument that Witness 1 was biased. She pointed to Washington’s testimony that Witness 1 provided police with a detailed account of how he saw Bright point his handgun and shoot Francis in the living room of the house.
A police arrest affidavit says Witness 1 told police that while shooting Francis, Bright yelled, “This will teach you.” The affidavit says Witness 1 told police he heard the other victim, who was later identified as David Watkins, yelling, “Day-Day, what are you doing? You’re crazy.”
The witness and others who know Bright said Bright went by the nickname Day-Day.
According to the arrest affidavit, Witness 1 recounted that he then heard several more gunshots that he assumed were fired at Watkins.
Police have said Francis, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the body and head, was pronounced dead at the scene. Watkins, who suffered from at least one gunshot wound to the body, was taken to Prince George’s Hospital, where he later died, the affidavit says.
Washington also testified that police found 22 shell casings at the house where the incident occurred and later matched them to a handgun that they recovered from Bright at the time of his arrest.
In addition, in response to questioning by Acevedo, Washington testified that another witness who has family ties with Bright told police that Bright telephoned the witness, listed as Witness 2, and confessed to having shot and killed two men at the 58th Street address.
Based on this and other information provided by police, Lopez ruled that probable cause exists that Bright committed the murders and the case should advance to trial. He denied a request by Winters that Bright be released to a halfway house, saying evidence presented by police and prosecutors indicates that Bright would be a danger to the community. He then scheduled a felony status hearing for June 10.
Prior to Washington’s testimony, Acevedo and Winters told Lopez that Bright had rejected a plea bargain offer from prosecutors. The two did not provide details of the offer, but Acevedo said it involved requiring that Bright accept a sentence of at least 20 years in jail.
At the start of the April 5 hearing, Bright was escorted into the courtroom with what appeared to be white bandages placed over the top of his head. Neither his attorney nor prosecutor Acevedo disclosed what happened to cause the apparent injury.
Shortly after entering the courtroom at the start of the hearing guards escorted Bright out of the courtroom before he returned about five minutes later. Minutes after that he began shouting, “People are trying to kill me. People don’t know what happened.”
Guards responded by hastily escorting Bright back out of the courtroom. About 10 minutes later, after the proceeding was put on hold, Bright was escorted back into the courtroom.
“I apologize, your honor,” Bright said. “That’s OK,” Judge Lopez responded.