The sale of a home in Northwest D.C.’s Shepherd Park neighborhood has been halted by a wrongful death suit filed by the family of the basement apartment tenant.
Police allege 76-year-old Luther Brooks was beaten by a handyman in the home several weeks before the sale, and later died of his injuries.
Diallo Brooks, the victim's son, said he and his own children had grown closer with his father in recent years.
“My children were building a relationship with him as well. My daughter just recently graduated from high school, he was here, wrote her a poem,” Diallo Brooks said.
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Diallo Brooks says his father was a military veteran who had served in the Air Force, had become committed to taking care of himself, ate a vegan diet, and got a job installing solar panels on roofs.
He enjoyed the privacy of the small apartment in the rear of a home on Kalmia Road Northwest, near the Maryland line.
His son says the Sept. 27 call from his father’s landlord, homeowner Valerie Mann, telling him a handyman prepping the home for sale found Luther Brooks severely injured after a fall, seemed odd.
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Luther Brooks died on October 8th. The DC Medical examiner determined he’d been beaten to death.
Radio transmissions by firefighters and EMTs who responded to Mann's 911 call sensed this was more than a fall.
In charging documents, police allege the handyman, 57-year-old Clifton Browne, kicked in the apartment door and brutally beat Brooks.
The documents reveal that on Oct. 2, in her second interview with detectives, landlord Mann said she told the handyman it felt as though Luther Brooks was taking advantage of her by not moving out and that having him around would help Brooks move out more quickly.
Mann has not been charged with any wrongdoing. She released at statement to News4 that says:
“It’s very unfortunate that Luther has lost his life. It’s a nightmare. I had no intention of him being harmed. I took him in when he was homeless, furnished the apartment, and helped him find work. I saw him as a success story. I’m grieving too.”
In early November, the Kalmia Road home was sold for just over a million dollars. But, the wrongful death lawsuit filed by attorney Richard Evans on behalf of the Brooks family halted the closing one day before it was to take place.
“We were able to secure protection of the asset for what we believe will be a recovery for the Brooks family," Evans said.
Browne, the handyman, is facing the charge of second degree murder.
At the time of Mr. Brooks’s death, there was a pandemic-related moratorium on most evictions in the District.
It’s not clear if, or how, that would have applied in this case.