Two Baton Rouge killings appear racially motivated

The killings of two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, now appear racially motivated and connected to a suspect who had an Adolf Hitler speech in his home, authorities say.

Kenneth James Gleason, 23, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Baton Rouge after investigators used surveillance video and DNA tests on bullet casings to identify the suspect, according to media reports.

Gleason is now charged with the September 12 gunshot murder of Bruce Cofield, a 59-year-old homeless man. Two days later, Donald Smart, 49, was fatally shot on his way to work at a café near Louisiana State University.

There is no indication the accused killer, who’s white, knew either of the victims, authorities say. Both were African Americans shot by someone in a car, who then walked up to the wounded men, execution-style, and fired multiple additional shots from a 9mm handgun.

District Attorney Hillar Moore, who says he may seek the death penalty, described the killings as “cold, calculated, planned [against] people who were unarmed and defenseless.”

“I feel confident that this killer would have killed again,” Baton Rouge’s interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam told The Associated Press.

The news service, quoting an unidentified law enforcement source, said the Hitler speech was discovered when investigators carried out a search last weekend at Gleason’s residence.

There are no published reports or social media accounts at this point suggesting Gleason has ties to a specific white supremacy or neo-Nazi group.

The first killing occurred September 12, when 59-year-old Bruce Cofield, who was homeless, was gunned down. The second took place last Thursday night, when 49-year-old Donald Smart was shot on his way to his job at a cafe popular with Louisiana State University students.

Gleason also has been connected to a third shooting on September 10 in Baton Rouge. In that incident, authorities say, no one was hurt when someone fired at least three shots into the home of a black family, which lives three houses from where Gleason lives with his parents.

Ballistics tests determined that the same 9mm handgun was used in all three shootings.  DNA found on one of the shell casings matched a DNA swab taken from the suspect.

Authorities say they identified the suspect after a security company employee spotted a white man in a red car removing the vehicle’s license plate and putting what may have been a handgun in its trunk.

The weapon used in the killings has not been found, but investigators say they have gun-purchase records showing Gleason bought such a handgun last November.

Gleason’s defense attorney, J. Christopher Alexander, said his client “vehemently denies guilt, and we look forward to complete vindication.”