Now, a federal jury in the district will decide whether two officers involved in the Oct. 23, 2020 pursuit should be held criminally guilty for their actions during and after a pursuit that authorities say was unlawfully reckless. It started around 10 p.m. and ended minutes later in an accident involving the rented moped Hylton-Brown was riding and an SUV.
Hylton-Brown, 20, suffered head injuries and died in hospital two days later.
“That man right there – great guy, Metropolitan Police Department officer Terence Sutton – we are here today because…he murdered Karon Hylton-Brown,” prosecutor Ahmed Muktadir Baset said on Tuesday. to the jurors in his opening statement at the trial of Sutton and the lieutenant. Andrew Zabavsky.
“He did it with his police cruiser,” chasing the moped through narrow residential streets “with a conscious disregard for the extreme danger of death or serious bodily injury” to Hylton-Brown, the prosecutor said.
After the death of a black man, a DC street wonders about the future of the police
Sutton, 37, and Zabavsky, 54, who were suspended from the force without pay, are charged with conducting the chase in violation of police department policy and then lying to their shift commander. The two officers, both white, are charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to cover up. Sutton is charged with second degree murder.
“Mr. Hylton-Brown’s crime that night? Riding a moped on the sidewalk without a helmet,” Baset said in U.S. District Court in Washington, adding, “It was murder and murder.” a cover-up by two DC police officers who betrayed their badges and betrayed their oaths.
Sutton’s attorney, J. Michael Hannon, disputed Baset’s version of events, saying in his opening statement that officers had good reason to believe Hylton-Brown intended to commit a crime that night. in the Brightwood Park area of the city. Because of their suspicions, he said, Sutton and Zabavsky were required by department policy to take “investigative steps,” that is, to arrest and question Hylton-Brown. .
Although Hannon did not directly accuse Hylton-Brown of throwing a gun or drugs during the chase, he did note that criminals sometimes do so during police chases.
Hylton-Brown would be ‘alive today’ if he had immediately stopped the moped when Sutton, driving an unmarked car, tried to stop it with emergency lights and a siren activated, Hannon said to the jury.
“He chose not to,” the defense attorney said. “He could have been arrested with a weapon. He may have been arrested with drugs. But he would be alive. As for the alleged attempted cover-up, Hannon said prosecutors would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Sutton committed a federal crime.
Zabavsky’s attorney, Christopher A. Zampogna, is scheduled to make his opening statement on Wednesday.
Baset, an assistant U.S. attorney, said that after Sutton and Zabavsky, in separate vehicles, saw Hylton-Brown driving the moped down a sidewalk without a helmet, Sutton chased him from behind as Zabavsky drove down streets. parallels, trying to get ahead of Hylton. -Brown to cut it. Video evidence shows Hylton-Brown driving erratically on sidewalks and cutting in front of oncoming traffic. Sutton lost sight of him at least once before catching up with him in an alley.
When Hylton-Brown rushed out of the driveway and onto Kennedy Street NW, he was hit by the SUV and suffered a “catastrophic brain injury,” Baset said.
Department policy prohibits officers from pursuing a motorist simply for a traffic violation, such as recklessly driving a moped. “The overall order couldn’t be clearer,” Baset said. Hannon said officers are pursuing Hylton-Brown because he was involved in an argument in Brightwood Park earlier in the day and may have been in the neighborhood that night retaliating against someone. a.
As Hylton-Brown lay unconscious in the street with a pool of blood spilling around his head, Baset said, Sutton and Zabavsky conspired to “control the narrative” and “bury it all under a rock.”
After officers turned off their body cameras and spoke, Sutton gave the SUV driver permission to leave, Baset said. He said they did not notify the department’s major accident unit as required. After Hylton-Brown was taken to hospital, Baset said, officers did not interview any witnesses to the crash or secure the crash site to gather evidence.
Baset told the jury that at the department’s 4th District station on Georgia Avenue NW, officers misled their watch commander, a captain, into describing the accident as relatively insignificant, downplaying Hylton’s injuries- Brown and omitting any mention of a lawsuit. He added that Sutton also wrote a false account of the incident in a police report. “All this remains [the captain] with the impression that it was a little fender bender,” said Baset.
Later that evening, however, after the captain saw body camera video of the chase, he notified the major crash unit as well as internal affairs investigators.
Four nights later, on October 27, dozens of people gathered outside the 4th arrondissement station in a demonstration that became unruly. Protesters smashed building windows, smashed police cruisers and shouted epithets at officers, who responded by firing pepper pellets and stun grenades. According to the police, four officers were injured and one arrest was made.
Sutton and Zabavsky were indicted by a federal grand jury last year. Hylton-Brown’s family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and five officers involved in the lawsuit, including Sutton and Zabavsky. The civil complaint alleges that DC police have a habit and practice of chasing and harassing young black men on motorcycles, sometimes fatally.
The DC Attorney General’s office and attorneys for the two officers declined to comment on the lawsuit. The criminal trial is expected to last about three weeks.