Teen suspect in Maryland officer's slaying held without bail

Teen suspect in Maryland officer's slaying held without bail Photo: AP

May 22, 2018 06:21 PM

PERRY HALL, Md. (AP) — A 16-year-old who was supposed to be on house arrest for auto theft was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the death of a Maryland police officer.

After hearing about Dawnta Anthony Harris' numerous recent run-ins with the law, a judge called him a "one-man crime wave" and ordered the teen held without bail.

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More than 20 police officers were in the courtroom when Harris made his first court appearance by video. Harris has been charged as an adult in the Monday killing of Baltimore County police Officer Amy Caprio, 29, who was responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle.

Harris was waiting in the vehicle, a Jeep, while three other teens were inside a nearby home committing a burglary, according to authorities and court records.

The slain officer's body camera footage clearly shows Harris accelerating the Jeep at Caprio after she tried to apprehend him on the cul-de-sac in the suburban Perry Hall community northeast of Baltimore, prosecutor William Bickel said during the hearing.

"She fired her weapon. He ran over her," Bickel said. Harris was apprehended shortly after abandoning the Jeep, which was stolen May 18 in Baltimore, he said.

A yellow lockup jumpsuit appeared baggy on Harris' slight 120-pound, 5-foot-7 frame during the hearing in Towson. When asked if he understood the charge he faces, Harris mumbled "yes" as he sat next to his public defender.

Harris has a series of auto theft arrests and a repeated history of running away from juvenile facilities, according to prosecutors. The teen was on house arrest at his mother's West Baltimore home but ran away May 14, they said.

Judge Sally Chester ordered the ninth-grader to be held at Baltimore County Detention Center, an adult lockup.

"Your client is one-man crime wave," Chester told Harris' public defender, who was pushing for Harris to be sent to a juvenile lockup.

According to a probable cause statement filed Tuesday, Harris told a detective that he "drove at the officer" and then abandoned the Jeep a short distance away.

Police said in a statement that the Jeep was found with a bullet hole where Caprio fired her service weapon at the driver just before she was struck.

The three teens — ages 15, 16, and 17 — who police say were burglarizing the house were tracked down at their families' homes in Baltimore, Chief Terrence Sheridan said.

They were in custody but had not yet been identified or formally charged as of late Tuesday afternoon. Scott Shellenberger, the state's attorney for Baltimore County, said at a news conference that authorities believe all three can be charged with felony murder in Caprio's death.

"They are in for everything that occurs as a result of that burglary, including when their co-defendant is outside running over a police officer and killing her," Shellenberger said.

A medical examiner determined Caprio died of trauma to the head and torso, Sheridan said.

Caprio, who would have been on the force four years in July, was smart, athletic and energetic, just the type of officer you want to hire, the chief said. She and her husband were to start vacation this weekend to celebrate their third wedding anniversary and their upcoming birthdays, police said in a news release.

The death stunned the quiet, residential neighborhood, said Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, who lives nearby.

"The community I represent stands united in grief for this fallen police officer, and our hope is that all those involved are brought to justice," Marks said.

Gov. Larry Hogan ordered flags to fly at half-staff through Friday, the day of Caprio's funeral.

Tony Kurek, who lives on the street where Caprio was fatally injured, told The Associated Press his adult son was outside in the family's yard Monday afternoon when the son saw the officer with her gun drawn, confronting someone in a Jeep.

"The next thing he heard was a pop, and he saw the Jeep take off and run right over her," Kurek said. The car left skid marks, he said, and officer was on the ground bleeding.

Harris was wearing an ankle bracelet at the time, Shellenberger said. But the bracelet simply indicated whether Harris was inside his home or outside his home — it did not track his whereabouts, he said.

Sam Abed, the Maryland Secretary of Juvenile Services, said at the news conference that his department had made "many attempts" to contact Harris after he went missing from his mother's house but was unsuccessful.

"Did the system not work?" said Sheridan, the police chief. "It sounds like ... it could have worked better in this particular case."

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Rankin reported from Richmond, Virginia. Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, Courtney Columbus in Towson, Maryland, and Randall Chase in Dover, Delaware, contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to remove a reference to the officer being shot. Police have said she was not found with a gunshot wound.

Credits

By DAVID McFADDEN and SARAH RANKIN

(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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