A D.C. Superior Court judge on May 18 sentenced District resident David Bright, 31, to 33 years in prison for the February 2016 murders in a Northeast Washington rooming house of two of his housemates that law enforcement sources said were gay.
Police and prosecutors have said Bright’s motive for fatally shooting Clifton David Francis, 51, and David Aumon Watkins Jr., 45, appeared to be a dispute over money and that there was no evidence to indicate the incident was a hate crime based on the victims’ sexual orientation.
But according to a sentencing memorandum filed in court by prosecutors earlier this month, Bright’s motive for the murders may have been related to his state of mind beyond the dispute over money for rent at the rooming house.
The eight-page memorandum says a witness who knew Bright and whom police identified as Witness 2 provided investigators with a possible reason for Bright’s agitated state of mind at the time of the slayings. It says Witness 2 told detectives Bright called him on his cell phone the day of the murder saying he just killed two men.
“The defendant went on to say words to the effect of, they thought I was soft, the n*ggas on 58th thought I was soft, they thought I was soft, my whole life people thought I was soft, I had to show them I’m not soft,” the memorandum recounts Bright telling Witness 2.
Bright’s mention of “58th” is a reference to the address of the rooming house where he and the two men he confessed to killing lived at 509 58th St., N.E.
The sentencing came two months after Bright pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder while armed in connection with the double murder as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the United States Attorney’s Office. The deal to which Bright agreed called for a sentence of 33 years after which Bright would be placed on five years of supervised release.
Superior Court Judge Ronna Beck, who had the authority to hand down a different sentence, approved the terms of the plea agreement and sentenced Bright to the 33-year prison term proposed in the agreement along with the five years of supervised release following the prison time.
In the sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Nielsen, the lead prosecutor in the case, wrote that homicide detectives learned through witnesses that on the evening before the murder Bright and Francis had a heated argument over whether Bright could remain a tenant in the rooming house.
The memorandum says Bright had become an unofficial renter through an arrangement with one of the two men he killed and that Francis told him that arrangement was no longer viable and Bright would have to move out within two weeks. Bright raised strong objections to that request, saying he had already paid his rent for a longer stay, the memorandum states.
It says according to an account by another housemate listed as Witness 1, the following afternoon Bright entered the house, ran up to his second floor bedroom and ran back down to the living room where Francis was sitting in a chair watching television and shot Francis multiple times in the head and body with a handgun.
Seconds later Watkins ran into the living room after hearing the gunshots and yelled to Bright, “What you doing, stop it, you’re crazy,” Witness 1 quoted Watkins as saying. Bright then turned his gun on Watkins and shot him point blank in the chest after which Watkins crawled to his bedroom followed by Witness 1, who called police, the memorandum says.
“Police responded and found Mr. Francis laying on his stomach in the living room, bleeding profusely, including from the head, with brain matter visible on the floor,” the memorandum says. “He sustained fourteen (14) gunshot wounds, including two to the head and one to the neck,” says the memorandum, adding that he was pronounced dead at the scene.
It says Watkins was pronounced dead a short time later at a hospital.
With the help of Witness 2, D.C. police the following day located and arrested Bright on a charge of first-degree murder while armed, the memorandum says. It says police found a gun in the car Bright was driving and later identified it as the murder weapon. He has been held without bond since the time of his arrest.