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'God was watching over him' | Neighborhood commissioner reunites victim of homeless attacks with son

Chuck was living on 17th & H Streets, NE when he was shot multiple times by a man believed to be targeting homeless communities. He's still hospitalized recovering.

WASHINGTON — Sondra Phillips-Gilbert first met "Chuck" while walking to work one winter day in 2019. Chuck, a man in his 50s, would sit on the corner of 18th and Benning Road nearly every day, and one day, Phillips-Gilbert, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in 6A, decided to make contact. 

“I would pass by him on the corner ... and one day I said, ‘what can I do for you?'"  

For the next three months, Phillips-Gilbert made sure Chuck had toiletries and food to eat. 

“Every morning I made my lunch, I would make Chuck’s lunch too,” she said smiling at the memory. "Chuck was very intelligent, he was kind, he was respectful." 

On March 11, the commissioner said she was heading to the Safeway and noticed Chuck and his belongings weren’t in their normal spot. Days later, she heard the news of a series of attacks on men experiencing homelessness in D.C. and New York. She remembers hoping that nothing had happened to Chuck. 

RELATED: 30-year-old man charged with first-degree murder in attacks on homeless men

Police said 30-year old Gerald Brevard III shot Chuck on March 8 just before 1:30 a.m. Chuck was the second of five men experiencing homelessness that police said Brevard attacked in D.C. and New York, two of whom died. Chuck survived his assault. 

According to court documents, MPD’s ShotSpotter detected two gunshots about a minute apart. The first shot came from 17th and H NE, and the second from right around the corner on Benning Road. When police arrived about one minute later, the records indicate Chuck was found next to a construction site suffering from gunshot wounds to the head, face, chest, thigh, buttock and hand.  

Prosecutors said in court Wednesday, that a witness saw a man in black walk behind the victim after he was shot once and tried to get away.  The witness later described the suspect sitting on a curb listening to music on his phone after the shooting.  According to the court record, the suspect was also spotted on nearby surveillance camera.

“God was watching over him,” said Phillips-Gilbert. 

She knew she needed to call his son, whom she had been trying to help reconnect with his father. A few years back, Chuck asked her to call his son. She contacted his adult son and together, they tried to get Chuck off the streets and into mental health care, but he refused.

“That was really hurtful for his son," Phillips-Gilbert said. "He really wanted to help his father. To watch your father, your loved one, on the corner just out there where anyone can take advantage of you?!”

This call, she knew was going to be even more painful. 

“I called his son and said is your father at 17th and H? He said, ‘yes' and I told him his father was one of the victims, but he survived," Phillips-Gilbert said.

She helped connect Chuck's son to city services and agencies for help. But she said hearing Chuck's son commiserate over not being able to share his resources with his father was devastating. 

"He said, 'I have a home. I have five bedrooms. My father can stay in any one of those rooms, but I can’t help my father,'" Phillips-Gilbert said. 

Phillips-Gilbert considers herself an earth-angel for Chuck and his family. She is grateful she was able to use her resources to help along the way. 

“If I had not paid attention to that corner where Chuck lived, his son would not know today that his father was one of the victims,” she said. "But what are the next steps for Chuck and people like Chuck? What do we do as a society? We got to do better than this.”

The Commissioner said this is not the end of the story. She’s calling on Mayor Bowser to create a task force, not just to end homelessness, but to ensure our neighbors living on the streets have the mental health services they so desperately need.

RELATED: 'I'm glad it's over' | Relative says suspect in attack on homeless men suffered from mental illness for many years

RELATED: 30-year-old man charged with first-degree murder in attacks on homeless men

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