Two prominent local defense attorneys will represent one of the teenagers charged in the killing of Baltimore County police Officer Amy Caprio.
Attorney Warren Brown, who along with attorney J. Wyndal Gordon is representing 16-year-old Dawnta Harris, said that he spoke to his client Wednesday morning. Harris was arrested Monday and charged as an adult Tuesday with first-degree murder in Caprio’s case.
Police said Harris and three other youths were stealing jewelry and cash from homes in Perry Hall when Caprio confronted Harris. He then accelerated a stolen Jeep and ran over Caprio as she opened fire, prosecutors said.
Brown said Harris told him that he rode out to the Perry Hall neighborhood with the three other teens, but did not know they were allegedly committing a burglary. When the officer drew her weapon, Brown said Harris panicked, leaned down and attempted to drive off. Since the officer’s car boxed him in, Brown said he attempted to veer the vehicle to the right when he stuck the officer.
“He just got in the front and panicked,” Brown said. Harris, he said, was frightened when the officer drew her gun.
“If he hadn’t ducked, we’d have a police-involved shooting. It could’ve been him,” Brown said.
Brown said he felt compelled to help represent the teen given the backlash about the case. Growing up in the 1950s, Brown said, an African American teen hitting a white police officer could have resulted in a lynching.“He wouldn’t have made it to trial,” Brown said.
Brown has a history of representing notable clients, including a Baltimore police detective who admitted to robbing and extorting citizens, billing for overtime hours he didn’t work, and falsifying reports to conceal his crimes; and a correctional officer charged with receiving thousands of dollars in bribes for smuggling drugs and other contraband into a Jessup maximum-security prison. Gordon has also taken on high-profile cases, including representing the mother, daughter and estate of Korryn Gaines, who was shot and killed by a Baltimore County police officer during a standoff in 2016.
Brown himself has lost loved ones to violence. Last summer, his 22-year-old stepson was shot and killed outside a Northwest Baltimore gas station. At a news conference at the time, Brown said the experience might prompt him to be more selective about the clients he represented.
"It gets you to the point where it becomes impossible to represent somebody who you know from your experience is a trigger-puller or likely to be a trigger-puller," he said.
In 2008, his ex-wife was killed after a domestic dispute with her then-boyfriend, who was convicted of second-degree murder the following year.
Darrell Jaymar Ward, 15, Derrick Eugene Matthews, 16, and Eugene Robert Genuis IV, 17, all of Baltimore, also have been charged with first-degree murder in Caprio’s case. None of the teens, who are scheduled for a bail review hearing at 1 p.m. Wednesday, had an attorney listed in court records.
Harris faces life in prison and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing next month in Baltimore County District Court.
Brown said despite growing up in a tough West Baltimore neighborhood, his client is “not hardcore. You can see the softness in him.”
He said the team is going to remain focus on the facts of the case, and “let the calm of the system take over.”