Police think two Louisiana slayings likely racially motivated

Kenneth Gleason is shown in an undated booking photo provided by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. Police believe the slayings of two black men in Baton Rouge were likely racially motivated and said Sunday, Sept. 16, 2017, that they have a person of interest — Gleason— in custody. Gleason, was being held on drug charges. Authorities do not yet have enough evidence to charge him with murder, Baton Rouge Sgt. L'Jean McKneely told The Associated Press. (East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office via AP)

BATON ROUGE, LA (AP) — Police believe the slayings of two black men in Baton Rouge were likely racially motivated and said Sunday they have a suspect — a 23-year-old white man — in custody.

The suspect, Kenneth Gleason, was being held on drug charges. Authorities do not yet have enough evidence to charge him with murder, Baton Rouge Sgt. L’Jean McKneely told The Associated Press.

McNeely said shell casings from the shootings linked the two slayings and a car belonging to Gleason fit the description of the vehicle police were looking for. He said police had collected other circumstantial evidence but he wouldn’t say what it was.

“There is a strong possibility that it could be racially motivated,” he said.

The shootings happened about 5 miles from each other. The first occurred Tuesday when 59-year-old Bruce Cofield, who was homeless, was shot to death. The second happened Thursday when 49-year-old Donald Smart was gunned down walking to work at a cafe popular with LSU students, McKneely said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Gleason had an attorney or when his first court appearance would be.

Detectives searched Gleason’s home on Saturday and found less than a gram of marijuana and vials of human growth hormone in his bedroom, according a police document. After Gleason was read his Miranda rights, he claimed ownership of the drugs, the document said.

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