Former D.C. officers found guilty in death of 20-year-old during police chase
Two former Metropolitan Police officers were found guilty on all charges brought against them in connection with the death of Karon Hylton-Brown, who was involved in a fatal car crash during a police chase more than two years ago, in Washington, D.C.
Terence Sutton, 38, and Andrew Zabavsky, 54, were previously suspended from the police department as what many believed to be suspicious circumstances surrounding Hylton-Brown's death sparked public unrest and ultimately led to a criminal trial. The jury returned guilty verdicts for both men, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in a news release on Wednesday, convicting Sutton of second-degree murder, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice, and Zabavsky of the latter two charges.
Hylton-Brown, a 20-year-old Black man, was pursued by D.C. police while driving a moped on a sidewalk in the city's Brightwood Park neighborhood on Oct. 23, 2020, according to the Justice Department. Authorities have said the attempted traffic stop was prompted by Hylton-Brown's lack of a helmet, although Sutton and Zabavsky — a former officer who was assigned to the department's crime suppression team, and former lieutenant who supervised the team of officers that included Sutton — were also found guilty of conspiring to hide the true circumstances of the chase and traffic collision that caused the young man's death.
After the police pursuit began at around 10 p.m. local time, Sutton continued to chase Hylton-Brown for more than 10 blocks through neighborhood streets and into an alley, according to federal authorities. Hylton-Brown was struck by an oncoming vehicle as soon as he exited the alley, and suffered severe head trauma that led to his death two days later, on Oct. 25, 2020, the Justice Department said.
"The jury found that Sutton caused Mr. Hylton-Brown's death by driving a police vehicle in conscious disregard for an extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury to Mr. Hylton-Brown," the Justice Department said. "The jury further found that Sutton and Zabavsky conspired and combined to hide from MPD officials the circumstances of the traffic crash leading to Mr. Hylton-Brown's death."
The incident sparked protests in the nation's capital. Just days after Hylton-Brown's death, a crowd rushed the doors of the 4th District police station and threw a trash can through the window. A police line was formed, and a WUSA-TV reporter saw fireworks being set off, police car windows being smashed and glass bottles and rocks being thrown at the police line.
The second-degree murder charge against Sutton carries a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, while the conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges each carry respective statutory maximums of five and 20 years, the Justice Department said. Sutton's conviction marked the first time a D.C. police officer has been convicted of murder while in the line of duty, CBS affiliate WUSA reported.
A federal district court judge will determine sentences for both former officers. Sentencing hearings have not yet been scheduled.
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