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'He was a human being with purpose and dignity' | DC ministers hold vigil for slain victim of homeless attacks

Police say 54-year-old Morgan Holmes was one of five homeless men attacked in D.C. and New York.

WASHINGTON — Morgan Holmes was a husband, father and grandfather. He was 54 years old when he was killed by a man, officials say attacked several people in D.C. and New York. 

DC Police said Holmes was one of five men experiencing homelessness in DC and New York who were attacked by Gerald Brevard. Holmes and another New York man died from the attacks.  

Family members told WUSA9 after serving in the army, Holmes struggled with mental illness and spent the next three decades of his life on and off medication and bouncing from family in Philadelphia, to an institution in Baltimore, to the streets of DC. Police say he lost his life in the early March attack near 4th and New York Avenue, NE.

Tuesday afternoon, traffic whizzed by as Reverend Patrick Mahoney knelt in silent prayer. He placed a bright bouquet of flowers on the sidewalk, among the ashes. Police claim Holmes lost his life in that very spot: stabbed and shot, his tent then set a-blaze in a brutal early-morning attack.  

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“If there is any example of what Washington, D.C. government officials think of the homeless, marginalized and houseless people  - it’s the fact that they did not have the dignity and integrity to clean this sidewalk up and honor the dignity of this man and the people who are struggling,” said Rev. Mahoney pointing to the charred debris on the sidewalk. “It’s unconscionable and shameful!”

But Reverends Patrick Mahoney, Robert Schenck and Hope Christensen honored Holmes in a memorial service right there on the busy New York Avenue overpass.

“Morgan was an honor student in Philadelphia, star athlete, a popular dancer who danced on the Philadelphia dance show called ‘Dancing in the Air,’ and he was the number one dancer,” explained Rev. Mahoney.  

But the Reverend said family members described a decades-long downward spiral; struggles with mental illness that landed their loved one on the streets. 

Police have arrested Gerald Brevard in connection to the attacks that left Holmes dead. The 30-year old man - whose family members told WUSA9 he suffers from mental illness himself - is behind bars, now accused of shooting the five men experiencing homeless in D.C. and New York.  

“It’s very easy for us to forget these are living, breathing human beings whose lives have purpose, dignity, and meaning,” said Rev. Mahoney. 

So, the ministers prayed, recited scripture and eulogized Holmes on New York Avenue and as police provided a perimeter blocking a land of traffic for the memorial service. Sadly, the ministers said no one was there to protect Holmes from his final fate, living and dying in the shadow of cranes and the Capitol dome.

“We cannot consider growth and development in the District of Columbia while we are ignoring the neediest and marginalized in our communities,” said Rev. Mahoney.  

Wearing their suits and robes, the ministers swept up the ashes, got down on bended knees to remove the remains of the charred tent, saving some personal items like charred cans of food, a business and ATM card, and a toothbrush. They filled the tree box with planting soil, laid a black stole on the guard rail, placed the bouquet of flowers and a large potted plant next to a poster board with Holmes's dates of birth, death and a family picture.

The area was transformed into a memorial site for a life that has not been forgotten and a lesson for all to remember. 

“We have to see here in Washington, D.C. that we are all interconnected,” said Rev. Mahoney.

Gerald Brevard remains behind bars and is due back in court April 1.

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