Towson, MD – Once 16-year old Dawnta Harris made a u-turn in the cul-de-sac, officer Amy Caprio, 29, exited her patrol car. She walked in front of the 2016 off road Jeep Wrangler as it was moving, gun drawn.
The Jeep came to a stop. What happened next took probably less than a minute. Harris told Baltimore County homicide detective Alvin Barton the whole story during a 14 hour interrogation captured on video tape.
Caprio died from blunt force injuries in June 2018 when responding to a suspicious vehicle call in a residential neighborhood in the Baltimore suburb of White Marsh, MD.
The young, slightly built Baltimore County officer aimed her service weapon at driver window and ordered Dawnta out of the vehicle. She stood directly in front of the Jeep with her gun pointed at him, blocking his only escape path.
“Get out of the fucking car” she yelled.
“I was too scared to get out,” he said during interrogation later that same day.
Dawnta said he only saw the officer once, a brief glance. He saw the gun pointed at him.
A condensed version (three hours) of the 9+ hour video taped statement was played in a packed Towson courtroom Friday, April 26.
“Once I seen the gun I put my head down. For about 5 seconds.”
Dawnta kept his eyes closed tight and his head ducked, in fear of the officer with the gun. His heart and mind were racing.
He opened the door slowly. The body worn camera showed Caprio slowing moving sideways as the door opened. She had just called in the license plate. She died not knowing the Jeep was stolen or that three of the occupants earlier that day had committed a burglary.
Caprio stood behind her car, with cover, and with a better view of the door as it opened, no longer in the path of the Jeep. Dawnta told Det. Alvin Barton that the officer was yelling something, but he couldn’t understand what exactly.
“I put my hands on the steering wheel,” is what he did next when asked.
“I was asking myself, what should I do? What should I do?” Dawnta said kind of frantically.
With a heavy sigh, he told the seasoned investigator, “Nothing came up.”
He repeated despondently, “Nothing came up.”
He closed the driver’s side door, still crouched down and with his eyes closed. The opening and closing of the door as he stated was seen on the officer’s recovered body worn camera video.
Then Caprio moved from behind her car back to her original position directly in front of the Jeep, as seen in the video.
Dawnta told Det. Barton he didn’t want to get arrested for the burglaries that he didn’t take part in. He had been trying to avoid trouble all day with people he barely knew.
Barton told him he seemed like a good kid. In court he testified that the teen seemed intelligent and calm.
Without warning, a gunshot whizzed over the 16 year old’s head. Glass shattered around him.
Startled, Dawnta, put his foot on the gas. He was driving blindly. The car moved slowly. On the BWC video, the car didn’t jerk, or burn rubber at a high rate of speed.
With his eyes closed he took a chance, Dawnta said. He was stuck with no good options for the 16 year old.
“I didn’t know if I was going to crash, hit her or get shot.”
After he got out of the cul-de-sac he didn’t look back. “I didn’t know I hit her.”
The 5′ 7″ 120 pound soft spoken kid abandoned the Jeep about five minutes away from where Caprio was last seen standing. He shook the glass from the shattered rear window from his hair and tried calling other three boys on his cell phone. Then he did the improbable.
In about 15 minutes, he was back to the same street, this time on foot with police cars swirling around. He was stopped, questioned, and taken into custody.
Media coverage was racially-tinged common once mugshots of the four black teens are released. Predictably, the arrest of the four boys evoked vitriol on media outlets’ online publications and across social media platforms.
The jury deliberated on Monday April 30th in the afternoon on felony murder charges. It’s the catchall charge when prosecutors fear that the bar of premeditation that comes with first degree murder is way to high.
It’s a controversial charge. Many defendants have had their convictions of felony murder overturned. In short, prosecutors are not focused on the elements of the murder, but the accompanying burglary.
So, if the jury of three black men find that a property crime occurred (a felony, but not nearly as serious as a crime against a person), then a person can be sent to prison for any homicide that is associated with that related felony.