The man who police believed murdered two Black men in separate “possibly racially motivated” shootings in Baton Rouge in September has pleaded not guilty to charges pending against him Wednesday, The Advocate reported.
Kenneth Gleason, who also allegedly fired a gun at the home of an African-American family, was charged with one count each of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder on November 30. Gleason, 23, who is White, showed little emotion during his arraignment. The grief-stricken family of one of the men, Donald Smart, who Gleason stands accused of killing in cold blood on September 14 was flabbergasted by the alleged serial killer’s plea.
“I was hoping and praying he (would) plead guilty so the family wouldn’t have to keep coming to court,” Tiquincia Smart, the teary-eyed sister of the 49-year-old slain man, said. “But we will be here every court day. … I truly believe justice will be served.”
Smart was hammered with bullets while walking to his job at a Baton Rouge cafe. A second man, Bruce Cofield, 59, was fatally struck on September 12 in a shooting that prosecutors believe Gleason committed as well. Police have deemed both slayings random, as they have yet to find a connection between Gleason and the two men, who were walking on the side of a road at night during both shootings. Gleason approached both Smart and Cofield in the same manner, having fired bullets at them from inside his car before exiting to deliver more shots while standing over them.
Gleason also stands accused of firing a shot at the home of the lone Black family on the block where he lived in the same week as Cofield and Smart’s shootings. No injuries were reported but two people were in the home at the time. Gleason’s case is still under investigation and officials are preparing for trial, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said. The DA has not decided whether to seek the death penalty, an alternative that came into view when Gleason was charged with first-degree murder.
Smart’s family said they will be at every court date during Gleason’s trail. “(Donald Smart) did not deserve to be killed and shot down like that,” Lakisa Flowers, the mother of Smart’s three children who is now raising their 12 and 13-year-old daughters and a 15-year-old son on her own, said. “Everyday, I just try to be strong for my kids … I try not to show my tears in front of them.”
Gleason is being held in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison without bond, WAFB reported. A motion hearing is slated for March 26.