WASHINGTON — Two lawyers for a 16-year-old charged with murder in the death of a Baltimore County police officer said on Thursday that the incident was “an extremely tragic accident” and are calling for the public release of the officer’s body camera footage to answer questions.
Dawnta Anthony Harris, 16, is accused of fatally running over Officer Amy Caprio, 29, on Monday in the Perry Hall community northeast of Baltimore. He’s been charged with first-degree murder, as have three other teens he had been with — Darrell Jaymar Ward, 15; Derrick Eugene Matthews, 16, and Eugene Robert Genius IV, 17. The latter three have also been charged with first-degree burglary; they were allegedly breaking into a nearby home.
Lawyer J. Wyndal Gordon said at a news conference Thursday that the case so far “generates a lot of questions that we don’t have answers to.”
Gordon pointed out that Caprio was called not for a report of a burglary, but of a suspicious vehicle. The fact that Harris was sitting in a stolen vehicle, and that the three other teens were supposedly committing a burglary, was all known to police “after the fact,” he said, and that at the moment Caprio blocked the Wrangler in, the situation “amounted to a traffic stop.” He also said the other three teens were nowhere near the vehicle, and that Caprio might not have known about them.
Matthews and Ward acknowledged committing the burglary, probable cause statements allege. Genius at first declined to give a statement but later objected to being charged with murder, saying he was in the house when the killing occurred, another statement said.
‘Get out of the car’
The lawyer cited a witness who said they heard Caprio quickly order Harris out of the vehicle, then shoot: “’Get out of the car get out of the car get out of the car’ and then pop.”
“We want to know why Officer Caprio found it necessary to draw her weapon on a 16-year-old child,” Gordon said. He characterized Harris’ actions as those of someone who was simply trying to get away from being shot at. “Just like the officer, this 16-year-old had to make a split-second decision. … He ducked and he closed his eyes and the car started to move forward.”
“It’s not lost on any of us” that an officer lost her life in the line of duty, Gordon said. “We just want answers.”
Gordon added that the officer who wrote the report wasn’t at the scene, and that no statements in the report attributed to Harris are direct quotes, but rather characterizations.
Lawyer Warren Brown was asked about a statement by Harris that he “drove at the officer,” and said that the state “has conceded that he’s ducking down … and just instinctively trying to get away.”
Brown also said Harris told the police in the same statement that he didn’t know the other three were committing burglaries — “they kept him in the dark deliberately” — and gave their names and addresses.
“If the state will release the bodycam footage, it will give us a better idea” of what happened, Brown said, and would help soothe the “frayed nerves and ugly emotions that are flowing.”
Gordon said he was confident the charges would be changed and would no longer include murder, once all the evidence is known.
‘This is my son’
Harris’ mother, Tanika Wilson, broke down several times while speaking about the case. “This is my son,” she said several times.
Harris had fled house arrest a week before the incident, and was still wearing a court-ordered ankle bracelet at the time of the incident. He had a court date last Friday, but didn’t show up. The prosecutor asked that he be detained, and she said she asked for that too, but the public defender wanted him released.
Wilson and Harris both got summonses to return to court Tuesday. The incident happened on Monday.
Wilson said her son had never been arrested before last December. She said he had fallen victim to “the environment, his peers. He made bad decisions.”
Regarding public outcry about the case, she said, “Everybody got so much to say. This situation is just terrible all around. My condolences to the officer … from the bottom of my heart.”
To Caprio’s family, Wilson said, “I’m really and truly sorry for this … for the actions that my son did.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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