The suspected perpetrator of a mass shooting in January was recently arrested. Here is what you need to know.
Gerald Thomas, 18, is charged with second-degree murder while armed in the death of 20-year-old Dasha Cleary. The shooting took place during the early hours of Jan. 27 and left four people injured and one dead, according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Three women, including Clearly, and two men were shot.
Cleary died from her injuries at a local hospital the day after the shooting. A judge signed Thomas’ arrest warrant on Feb. 11 and Thomas was arrested eight days later.
Five women and six men attended a party at the Days Inn hotel on the 4400 block of Connecticut Avenue, NW, according to court documents. It was described by attendees as a “lingerie party” in a single room. The organizer of the gathering, who is one of the surviving victims, was dating Thomas at the time. She planned the event as a surprise birthday party for one of the witnesses. The defendant was not initially present at the party.
Crime scene technicians recovered 9mm and 40 caliber expended cartridge casings and observed multiple bullet holes in the walls of the hotel room. The locations of the casings indicated 9mm rounds had been fired towards the door from inside the room and in the opposite direction of where Cleary was located. A detective concluded that the perpetrator opened fire from the door and a second individual in the room with a gun returned fire in self-defense.
Investigators located a 9mm handgun in the flight path of the male victims. It contained a 30-round magazine with seven rounds of 9mm ammunition, not including the round in the chamber. The two men could be seen on surveillance footage helping each other down the stairwell and of out the hotel. Surveillance footage from a local hospital shows the two being dropped off by a white SUV, according to court documents.
An MPD detective interviewed both men. They were uncooperative about their whereabouts until detectives confronted them with the evidence they had.
The detective told one of the two male victims that Washington, DC has a self-defense law and that whoever fired at the perpetrator may have saved lives. Still, neither of the men confessed to returning fire, according to court documents.
On Jan. 28, two additional witnesses were detained in an unrelated search warrant by the U.S. Marshals Service.
The two witnesses told detectives they were smoking outside the Days Inn on the night of the shooting while the party was still going on. Reportedly, a Black man wearing a full army fatigue mask and all-black clothing approached them with an anxious demeanor. One of the witnesses said he thought the man was on drugs based on his general mannerisms. The man reportedly asked multiple times to get into the building, which requires a key card, and use the elevator.
The two witnesses let the man into the building, which is when one of them said they saw an extended magazine and the hint of a handgun sticking out of his coat pocket. They allowed him access to the elevator before getting off on the second floor. According to court documents, the witness reported hearing the sound of gunshots approximately 30 minutes after letting the man into the elevator.
The party’s organizer reportedly told a friend she was worried because her boyfriend, Thomas, was on his way to the hotel. Her friend told her not to worry because Thomas did not know the room number, according to court documents.
Minutes later, Thomas reportedly knocked on the door and asked about his girlfriend’s whereabouts. A friend told Thomas nobody knew her at all. Thomas then allegedly fired at least 20 rounds.
Detectives interviewed the girlfriend after she came out of surgery. She reported a number of things that were inconsistent with the MPD’s investigation. She first said she did not want to talk to the police and did not know who shot her. She later said her boyfriend came to the hotel to get her because other men were in the hotel room and Gerald believed she was cheating on him with one of them. She also said someone who was not her boyfriend shot her because she slammed the door in the defendant’s face and that the defendant may have shot back.
The woman identified her boyfriend as “Gerald” but refused to provide a last name. “It did not appear that [the girlfriend] was being fully truthful,” the affidavit states.
During a second interview, the girlfriend provided a positive ID of Thomas on surveillance footage as well as his last name. She said she did not see anybody shoot back and that the decedent was the first to be shot. It’s still unclear whether the decedent was the target of the shooting or if the suspect had a target at all.
On Feb. 19, Thomas was arraigned before DC Superior Court Judge Laura Cordero, who ordered him detained at DC Jail. He is being represented by public defender Jacqueline Cadman and is scheduled to return to court on March 3.