DNA Sought from Suspect in Gay Columbia Heights Killing

D.C. Judge orders samples from Jermaine Brown in July shooting, immolation death of Randolph Scott Harris Jr.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin announced late last week that he will issue an order, sought by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, requiring a defendant accused of shooting a gay man and setting him ablaze to submit to DNA collection by providing saliva samples, or Buccal swabs.

Jermaine Brown, of Northwest Washington, faces a charge of felony murder for allegedly shooting 31-year-old Randolph Scott Harris Jr., of Northwest Washington, on July 26 and then setting Harris on fire while he was still alive but restrained in a chair in Harris’s Columbia Heights apartment.

Morin, the presiding judge, found during an August status hearing that there was probable cause to suspect that Brown could have committed the murder, allowing prosecutors to move forward with obtaining an indictment from a grand jury. So far, prosecutors have not yet obtained such an indictment. No bias enhancements, aka hate-crime charges, have been added to the charges against Brown.

Following the finding of probable cause, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a motion seeking to have Brown provide DNA samples. Brown’s lawyer, David Maxted, filed an objection to the government’s request Oct. 11, prompting Morin to call an Oct. 18 hearing to determine whether the prosecution’s request would be granted.

Brown remains held without bond in the D.C. Jail as he awaits trial.

According to charging documents, Brown was arrested following an investigation that connected him to the victim and the crime scene. Witnesses placed Brown in the area of the victim’s apartment around the time of the murder. Other witnesses told police they had seen Brown with a bag containing an iPad, iPhones and an iPod touch, which had been left at the home of a third party. Police were able to secure that bag, and matched serial numbers on the devices to serial numbers on packaging found in the victim’s home.

Prior to his arrest, Brown was interviewed several times by police and was challenged about inconsistencies in his statements to investigators, including his relationship to the victim and how he came into possession of the electronic devices. Other inconsistencies in Brown’s statements to police included how he came into possession of Harris’s car, which a traffic camera photographed driving through the city’s Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast D.C., miles away from the Columbia Heights; and whether Brown’s claims that he had previously engaged in drug use with Harris were true.

In one interview with police, Brown told investigators that he had visited the victim, whom he referred to as ”Man,” and alleged that Man, who was gay, had tried to ”holla” at him, meaning initiate some sort of sexual relationship. Brown denied ever ”going that way” – or engaging in a sexual relationship with Harris – because he told police he saw something wrong with being gay and described it as ”nasty.” According to charging documents, Brown later admitted to police that he had occasionally engaged in sex with men, though not with Harris.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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