Two and a Half Months Later, the Brandon Woodard Murder Still Hasn't Been Solved

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Feb. 25 2013 11:00 PM

Two and a Half Months Later, the Brandon Woodard Murder Still Hasn't Been Solved

Brandon Woodard
Brandon Woodard (R) and his still-unidentified killer.

New York Police Department

In December 2012, 31-year-old Brandon Woodard was shot and killed on a midtown Manhattan sidewalk in a brazen, broad-daylight attack that struck New Yorkers as both shocking and shockingly stupid. Woodard was shot in Midtown, one of the busiest neighborhoods of New York City. The shooting was captured on camera, and those images were soon all over the news and the web. The getaway car was spotted entering the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and was impounded by police a couple days later. The only thing the killers didn’t do, it seemed, was write their names and addresses next to the body.

At the time, it seemed likely that the assailants’ recklessness would be their undoing. “Cops don’t like being taunted,” I wrote at the time, “and shooting someone in the head in the middle of the day a block from where tourists rent horse-drawn carriages is a pretty good way to raise their ire. Even though they got away at the time, it’s only a matter of time before these guys get caught.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Two and a half months later, Brandon Woodard’s killers are still at large. Is it really this easy to get away with murder?

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Maybe. My initial post may have made too much of the fact that Woodard was shot in Midtown. It doesn’t necessarily matter where the murder takes place, be it ever so public—without a solid lead, it’s hard to make an arrest. And while the shooter got caught on camera, that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for the police to identify, locate, and arrest him: the footage was grainy and the shooter’s face was obscured. The best leads in murder cases tend to come from physical evidence or tips from friends and relatives. But the best lead in the Woodard case—the rented getaway car—turned out to be a dead end; cops decided that the woman who rented the car wasn’t actually involved in the shooting.

That’s not to say that the cops haven’t learned anything about the case. In fact, they’ve learned a lot about the oft-arrested Brandon Woodard, who, at the time of his death, was allegedly involved in the cross-country drug trade. According to an article by Murray Weiss of DNAinfo.com, a website that covers local news in New York, police believe Woodard was the middleman for a group of Los Angeles drug dealers who had allegedly cheated a New York group out of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Mexican cocaine.

It seems as if Brandon Woodard’s death is just a small part of a much bigger story, and maybe that helps explain why nobody has been arrested yet. It’s possible that locking up the guys who killed Woodard might make it harder to investigate the higher-ups who ordered the hit. But it’s just as possible that the cops just plain don’t know who did it. It’s hard to solve a murder, even one as public as this.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.