TOWSON, Md. (AP) — A day after a 16-year-old suspect was charged with first-degree murder for allegedly accelerating a stolen Jeep at a Maryland police officer and running her down, three more teenagers were charged Wednesday as adults in her death.
Under the state’s felony murder law, if someone is killed during a burglary, accomplices can be found guilty of the slaying along with the suspected killer. For this reason, authorities say the three were charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Baltimore County police officer Amy Caprio even though they were allegedly burglarizing a nearby home when she was fatally injured Monday on a suburban cul-de-sac.
“They are in for everything that occurs as a result of that burglary, including when their co-defendant is outside running over a police officer and killing her,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said.
Fifteen-year-old Darrell Jaymar Ward, 16-year-old Derrick Eugene Matthews and 17-year-old Eugene Robert Genius IV, who were arrested Tuesday, have also been charged with first-degree burglary.
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At a court hearing Wednesday, Ward and Matthews waived their right to appear, and a judge ordered them held without bond at an adult lockup. Genius appeared through video and requested a postponement because his lawyer could not attend Wednesday. The judge agreed.
A fourth suspect, 16-year-old Dawnta Anthony Harris, was the first to be charged with first-degree murder. The slain officer’s body camera footage clearly shows Harris accelerating the Jeep at Caprio after she tried to apprehend him Monday in the Perry Hall community northeast of Baltimore, prosecutor William Bickel asserted during Harris’ bail hearing Tuesday.
Harris was ordered held without bond at an adult jail by a judge who described him as a “one-man crime wave.”
A public defender who represented Harris requested that he be sent to a juvenile lockup, but prosecutors noted his series of auto theft arrests and a repeated recent history of running away from juvenile facilities.
Baltimore defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon announced Wednesday that he will join with another lawyer to represent Harris, saying they will not allow the 16-year-old suspect to be “sacrificed to the system.”
“Every life is worth fighting for. This young man is no different, he deserves a chance. And let’s not forget, even though I refer to him as a young man, he is still a child,” Gordon wrote Wednesday in a Facebook post.
The Associated Press does not ordinarily identify underage suspects unless they face adult charges.
The 29-year-old Caprio was run down Monday by a stolen Jeep driven by Harris after she responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle, investigators have said. Harris was apprehended shortly after abandoning the Jeep, which police said had been stolen May 18 in Baltimore. According to probable cause statement, Harris admitted as much, telling a detective that he “drove at the officer.”
According to probable cause statements obtained Wednesday, Harris identified Ward, Matthews and Genius as the three subjects responsible for the burglary.
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.
Attempts to reach people believed to be relatives of Ward, Matthews and Genius were not successful Wednesday. Reporters made calls and knocked on doors of several homes in Baltimore listed in court documents, but there was no response.
Harris, a ninth-grader, had fled house arrest a week before the incident and was still wearing a court-ordered ankle bracelet when he ran down Caprio, authorities said.
Sam Abed, the Maryland Secretary of Juvenile Services, said at a news conference that his department had made “many attempts” to contact Harris after he went missing from his mother’s house but was unsuccessful.
The ankle bracelet Harris was wearing Monday simply indicated whether he was inside or outside his home — it did not track his whereabouts, Shellenberger, the prosecutor, said.
“Did the system not work?” police Chief Terrence Sheridan said. “It sounds like … it could have worked better in this particular case.”
Caprio, who would have been on the force four years in July, was smart, athletic and energetic, just the type of officer you want to hire, Sheridan said. She and her husband had been planning a vacation this weekend to celebrate their third wedding anniversary and their upcoming birthdays, police said.
A medical examiner determined she died of trauma to the head and torso, according to Sheridan.
The death stunned the quiet, residential neighborhood where the officer was killed. A steady stream of residents and well-wishers has left bouquets and other offerings just outside the police station where she once worked.
Rankin reported from Richmond, Virginia. Associated Press writer Courtney Columbus in Towson, Maryland, contributed to this report.