A 29-year-old man has been charged in violent attacks that include the targeted killings of a gay couple in Seattle and the point-blank shooting of a New Jersey college student, and could face the death penalty if convicted, law enforcement officials told the Los Angeles Times.
Ali Muhammad Brown was arrested last month in New Jersey and charged in a robbery that turned bloody on June 25 and left 19-year-old Brendan Tevlin dead in West Orange, according to Katherine Carter, a spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.
Weeks earlier, Brown is suspected of using a dating application for gay men to lure Dwone Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said to a Seattle nightclub on June 1. He shot and killed both men, said Det. Patrick Michaud, a spokesman for the Seattle Police Department.
Brown was also linked to a robbery in Point Pleasant, N.J., and an incident in which a robbery victim was stuffed into the trunk of a car in West Orange, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told The Times.
The official, not authorized to speak publicly about the case, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
All told, the events of the six weeks have ended with Brown facing multiple homicide, robbery and weapons charges in Washington state and New Jersey. In Seattle, where Brown reportedly targeted his victims because of their sexual orientation, Michaud said he could face the death penalty if convicted.
New Jersey does not have the death penalty.
Brown pleaded not guilty in Tevlin's death on Wednesday, Carter said, and prosecutors are trying to determine whether he will be extradited to Washington or stand trial in New Jersey first.
Police say Brown's violent path began June 1, when he used Grindr, a dating application for gay and bisexual men, to lure Anderson-Young and Said to Neighbours Nightclub in Seattle.
The couple met Brown and followed him to an area in the city's Central District, Michaud said, where Brown shot and killed both of them, then stole their car.
According to a criminal complaint filed by Kings County, Wash., prosecutors, Brown "essentially executed" his two victims, shooting both men at close range in the head and face.
Kings County prosecutors called the killing of Anderson-Young and Said "extremely violent, senseless and seemingly unprovoked."
Michaud said Seattle police circulated Brown's picture in the local media and made contact with his relatives. Police said they nearly captured him on several occasions in the weeks after the double shooting.
Brown wasn't spotted by law enforcement again until June 29, when he was linked to an armed robbery in Point Pleasant, a beach town along the Jersey shore, Carter said. By that point, Brown's name had been entered into the National Crime Information Center database because he was a suspect in the Seattle slayings, Carter said.
Investigators believe Brown fled to New Jersey because he had friends and relatives in East Orange, a source told The Times. Carter said he was linked to Tevlin's killing on July 7, after a ballistics test showed Tevlin was killed by the same gun used in the Seattle slayings.
The weapon used in both killings was a 9-millimeter Smith & Wesson handgun, according to the criminal complaint.
Three days after the ballistics test came back, authorities say Brown was involved in another robbery in West Orange, the same town where Tevlin was gunned down.
During that incident, Brown is accused of assaulting and robbing a man and stuffing him into the trunk of a car.
Brown was captured in West Orange on July 18, according to Carter, who said he had been hiding in the woods for days.
Prosecutors believe Brown, 19-year-old Eric Williams and 18-year-old Jeremy Villagrand, both of New Jersey, drove up behind Tevlin in West Orange about 11:30 p.m. on the night of the shooting.
Tevlin, a freshman at the University of Richmond who lived in New Jersey, had been visiting friends. Carter said Brown and another suspect pulled up behind Tevlin's car and surrounded him.
Carter said it was not clear what happened next, but authorities said Brown eventually fired 10 shots at the car, striking Tevlin eight times. Brown then pushed Tevlin's body into the passenger seat and drove to a nearby apartment complex, where the college student's body was found the next day, Carter said.
"It was targeted in the sense that it looks like they were out to rob him, but it's basically a random killing," Carter said.
Seattle police are still looking to determine whether Brown has been linked to other crimes or assaults of gay men, Michaud said. Brown has a lengthy criminal history, including arrests for communicating with minors for an immoral purpose and several domestic assaults, Michaud said.
He is also a registered sex offender, according to prosecutors in New Jersey.
Brown has been charged with murder, felony murder, weapons offenses and robbery in the Tevlin slaying. Villagrand and Williams are also facing felony murder and robbery charges. All three entered pleas of not guilty Wednesday.
Brown and Williams are being represented by public defenders; Villagrand has retained criminal defense attorney Roy Greenman, Carter said. Calls to Greenman's office were not returned.
It remains unclear where Brown will stand trial first.
"It's not clear where he will face charges first," Carter said. "There have been conversations, but no decisions made about how that would work."
Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the Kings County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, said Brown would face either life in prison or the death penalty if convicted in the Seattle slayings.