Baltimore, MD – Attorneys for the 16 year old who murdered Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio on Monday called on the state’s attorney’s office to release the fallen officer’s bodycam footage at a press conference on Thursday.
Warren Brown and J. Wyndal Gordon flanked the killer’s sobbing mother and told reporters that Officer Caprio’s murder had been an “accident.”
“This was not an intentional killing. It was not deliberate. It was not premeditated. This was an accident. And that’s how we feel about it,” Gordon said.
The attorneys for Dawnta Harris said their client had no motive to run down Officer Caprio, despite the fact that Harris was violating his house arrest and driving a stolen Jeep Wrangler as a getaway car while his friends committed burglaries nearby when he was stopped.
His lawyers said he didn’t know that what his friends were doing.
“People are making a lot of assumptions,” Brown said at the press conference. “They’re assuming that this young man stole the car, and they’re assuming that he drove it from Baltimore… They’re assuming he knew that the three that got out of the car were going to burglarize a home.”
Harris told detectives that he didn’t know his friends were committing a burglary, and he gave police the names and addresses of the other three suspects when asked, his attorney said.
“So if he’s going to be truthful and honest about that, why can’t we trust the other things he’s had to say?” Brown asked.
Police said Officer Caprio had been dispatched to a call about a suspicious vehicle on May 21 when she encountered Harris in the stolen Jeep.
Court documents said that Harris admitted to investigators that he was driving a Jeep Wrangler, and that he was waiting in the vehicle while Genius, Matthews, and Ward committed a residential burglary.
Harris said he attempted to flee, but ended up in a cul-de-sac.
Officer Caprio pursued him, then exited her patrol vehicle and demanded that Harris get out of the Jeep, court documents said.
Harris said he opened the driver’s door partway, but that he closed the door again, and “drove at the officer,” the report read.
Bodycam footage showed that Officer Caprio fired her duty weapon at her attacker, just before he fatally struck her with the vehicle, police said. Harris then fled the scene.
His attorneys maintained that he didn’t mean to kill the officer.
“He drove away from danger… they make it sound like he drove at her,” Brown complained.
He insisted Harris had no propensity for violence in his background and that it’s a mischaracterization to say that he “murdered” Officer Caprio because he was just trying to get away because he was afraid.
“There wasn’t any intention on his part to strike the officer,” Brown told reporters.
“It’s not to say that he should be patted on the back for that. But I think we need to put things in the correct perspective - he ain’t a killa’. He’s a kid that panicked when a gun was put in his face,” the attorney maintained.
Brown said that it was wrong of people to be critical of the way Harris responded when he was confronted with the officer’s gun.
Harris was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, and is being held without bond at the Baltimore County Detention Center, according to the department.
All three of his friends were arrested the next day. Police used Officer Caprio’s handcuffs to make all four arrests.
Attorneys for Harris told reporters at the press conference that the incident was being grossly mischaracterized.
“We’re calling for the state’s attorney and the police department to release the bodycam footage. It should speak for itself,” Brown said. “I think it will put a lot of misconceptions to rest.”
The attorneys repeatedly claimed Officer Caprio had no probable cause to stop Harris while he was driving a stolen vehicle.
“Forget about the optics. Forget about all the elements that makes this case dramatic and ones that people cry out for. We want to know what was in the officer’s mind at the moment she deployed deadly force. What probable cause did she have to believe that this person was going to harm to her or some other individual in this residential district?” Gordon asked.
(Editor's Note: Probable cause is not required to make a traffic stop, although the officer did have probable cause because the vehicle was stolen.)
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said on Tuesday that the video of of officer's violent murder will not be released, WJZ reported.
Gordon said it was their opinion that everything that happened after Officer Caprio stopped Harris was a moot point if the stop wasn’t righteous.
“Maybe the evidence that flowed from the bad stop is suppressible? And then what do you have?” Gordon asked.
Brown described his client as “a child,” and said he couldn’t even call him a “young man” because he’d only turned 16 in January and was really more of a 15 year old.
“This was an extremely tragic accident. And it’s not lost on any of us out here that a police officer lost her life in the line of duty. It’s not lost on any of us,” Gordon said.
“But we want to know why Officer Caprio felt it necessary to draw her weapon on a 16-year-old child,” the attorney asked. “We want to know why this was necessary.”
“When you see this young man, he’s a puny five-foot-one, 120-pound young man. You automatically know you’re dealing with a child and not an adult,” Gordon insisted.
At the time Harris encountered Officer Caprio, he was in violation of house arrest for a string of four car thefts that he was arrested for between December and March.
Maryland Secretary of Juvenile Services Sam Abed said in a press conference earlier this week that Harris never should have been released on electronic monitoring, and left the blame squarely at the feet of the prosecutors, WBAL reported.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby fired back at Abed with her own press conference and said she was “more than appalled, disheartened, and perplexed” by his comments.
Mosby blamed Juvenile Services for the fact that Harris had been in a position to kill the young police officer, since their agency was responsible for monitoring him on house arrest.
Attorneys for Harris said at the press conference that his mother, Tamika Wilson, had done everything possible to control her son and have him detained.
Wilson said the state failed her child when they released him, and that she had wanted him locked up because she was trying to “break the cycle.” She blamed his public defender for requesting his release.
“The judge sent him home on community detention so here we are,” Wilson sobbed to reporters. “I mean, this is my son. Can nobody understand?”
She said her son was not the man the media are painting him to be.
“I see my son’s mugshot – it’s on everywhere… my condolences to the family of the officer. This is just so wrong. If they would have kept him, we wouldn’t be here,” Wilson said.