EXCLUSIVE: Lawyer of suspect in viral bike trail assault says client was on his way to priest when stopped by police

Capital Crescent Trail
A cyclist is wanted for assaulting people putting up signs along the Capital Crescent Trail. (Courtesy NBC Washington)

A Maryland man charged with assaulting three teenagers after a video showed him grabbing a protest flyer from one of teens is apologizing.

In a statement released by his lawyers immediately after his arrest, 60-year-old Anthony Brennan III of Kensington, Maryland, said, “I am sick with remorse for the pain and fear I caused the victims on the trail, and online.”

Brennan said he is cooperating with authorities, hopes to make amends to the victims and get to the bottom of what he called “my abhorrent behavior. ”

Brennan III was on his way to see a priest and a lawyer when he first learned he was a suspect in the assault of three teenagers posting flyers protesting the death of George Floyd on the Capital Crescent Trail, in Montgomery County, WTOP has learned.

Charging documents and an interview with a defense attorney for Brennan paint a detailed picture of what led to Brennan’s arrest on Friday.

Brennan was seen on a widely-circulated video of the June 1 bike trail incident, allegedly grabbing flyers and a roll of blue painters’ tape from the arm of a slight 19-year-old female, taunting the trio, and eventually charging his bicycle at an 18-year-old male, knocking him down, as he was videotaping the incident.

Brennan was charged Friday with three counts of misdemeanor second-degree assault, and was released early Saturday on a $5,000 unsecured personal bond.

Attorney Andrew Jezic, who is representing Brennan with co-counsel David Moyse, said he was contacted by a friend of Brennan on Thursday evening. Brennan and Jezic agreed to meet Friday morning, at Jezic’s Wheaton office.

Overnight, social media discussion of the viral video led to the names of several innocent people being circulated, on Twitter and Facebook.

“We had a bunch of texts overnight. He wanted to let the police know it wasn’t the other people,” said Jezic.

According to an affidavit written by Detective Cheryl Lopez of Maryland-National Capital Park Police, several tipsters, including neighbors of Brennan — who knew him to be an avid bicyclist — suggested police look at him as a potential suspect in the viral bike assault.

By 8 a.m. Friday, police were staking out Brennan’s house on Ambler Drive, in Kensington.

His attorney said when Brennan left his house shortly after 8 a.m., Friday, riding in the passenger seat of his adult son’s car, neither he, nor his client were aware Brennan was considered a suspect, or was under surveillance.

“He couldn’t find his pastor at his own church, so he decided to go look for a priest on his way to my office,” said Jezic, saying his client intended to go to Holy Redeemer Church, on Summit Avenue, in Kensington.

Near the church, Brennan’s son allegedly ran a stop sign, and was pulled over by Maryland-National Capital Park Police, in the church parking lot.

Anthony Brennan was asked to get out of the car, and to be photographed. He agreed.

According to Det. Lopez, the police officer “asked if Anthony Brennan knew what this was about, he at first stated he did not.”

“When they asked ‘are you the bicyclist,’ he said, ‘My lawyer advised me not to speak about the subject,'” Jezic said.

After photographing Brennan, the officers said Brennan and his son were free to go.

“At that point I guess they figured they’d have to bypass the visit to the priest and came to my office,” Jezic said.

After speaking with Brennan at his office, Jezic called Det. Lopez, who said she needed to check with her supervisors. Minutes later, States Attorney John McCarthy called Jezic.

Brennan, who is married with three adult children, agreed to a consensual search of his home. It was conducted by officers wearing body cameras at approximately 3 p.m. Friday, with McCarthy and Jezic present.

“We showed them where everything was,” said Jezic. “Some of the clothes were in his closet, the bicycle stuff was in a bicycle bag.”

According to the charging document, police recovered Brennan’s sunglasses, cycling shoes, blue bandanna, water bottle, and shorts that were seen in the video.

Brennan led police to “a bag hidden under the front porch containing the bike helmet,” according to the charging document. Jezic said his client had discarded the cycling shirt he was wearing in the video.

In Brennan’s basement office, Lopez said police found “the fliers and tape that were taken from the victims.”

Jezic said his client brought police to the bicycle seen in the video, which was about four blocks away, locked behind a former office building.

“He gave them the key to unlock the bike,” Jezic said.

A few hours later, when informed police had a warrant for his arrest, Brennan went to the jail, where he was met by the detective, who placed him under arrest, late Friday.

While charging documents and interview provide more details about the hours leading to the arrest, what remains less clear is why Brennan allegedly assaulted the trio.

The incident happened in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis when an officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, and the ongoing demonstrations in D.C., and around the country. Floyd is black, and the officer who knelt on his neck is white. Floyd’s death sparked global protests about racial bias in law enforcement.

The flyer the teens were posting along the bicycle trail read: “Killer cops will not go free. Text ‘Floyd’ to 55156. Do not live in ignorance. Use your privilege for good.”

According to Det. Lopez, Brennan told the three they were “‘deviants,’ and that they are causing riots.”

Asked why his client was so outraged, Jezic said he wasn’t sure, but said he expected to find out in the coming weeks.

“We were sort of in crisis mode, dealing with what was happening, and we wanted to exonerate the other people,” said Jezic. “We’ll be spending a lot of time together in the next several weeks, with our client, as he talks with his counselors.”

Immediately after his arrest, Brennan released a statement, through his attorneys: “I am sick with remorse for the pain and fear I caused the victims on the trail, and online. I am cooperating fully with authorities. I am committed to making amends by addressing, through counseling, the underlying issues that led to my abhorrent behavior.

“I am dedicated to working with the Montgomery County State Attorney’s Office to provide peace to our community and justice to the victims in the video, as well as to all victims of racism and police brutality.”

Asked if he and his client hope to resolve the case without a trial, Jezic said they were.

The maximum penalty for each count of second degree assault is 10 years behind bars.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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