A Pentagon police officer accused of shooting at three men in a Maryland parking lot as they drove away was indicted on two counts of murder and a single count of attempted murder, according to Montgomery County Circuit Court records made public Friday.
The grand jury also indicted David Hall Dixon, 40, on assault counts for an unrelated incident last year when he allegedly pointed a shotgun and discharged pepper spray at a homeless woman who had come into the lobby of his condominium building. Taken together, all of the charges filed Thursday expose Dixon, who was off duty at the time of the incidents, to a possible sentence topping 200 years.
An attorney for Dixon, Bill Brennan, said Dixon will plead not guilty to all the charges.
“Mr. Dixon has been honorably serving the public for over 20 years including eight years in the military with tours overseas,” Brennan said. “He will vigorously contest these charges.”
The grand jury indictments were not unexpected after Takoma Park Police charged Dixon earlier this month, but they move the matters from Montgomery’s District Court to Circuit Court, where felony cases are handled. No trial dates were set for Dixon, who remains jailed since he was arrested April 9.
The main case against Dixon stems from an encounter at about 5 a.m. on April 7. At the time, he was leaving his seventh-floor residence at the Takoma Overlook condominiums in his civilian clothes, heading for work at the Pentagon, according to police. In the dark parking lot, according to authorities, he noticed a car with no headlights on. He went to check it out. As he drove up, police said, he saw at least one man outside the car trying to break into another car and confronted them.
Video surveillance, according to court documents, captured what happened next: With all three men now inside their car, they drove off and Dixon fired several rounds from behind. The fleeing car, according to the documents, “no longer presented an immediate threat that would have justified the use of deadly force.”
One of his rounds entered the upper back of Dominique Williams, 32, who was in the back seat, according to police. Another round entered the upper back of James Lionel Johnson, 38, who was in the front passenger seat. The driver, Michael Thomas, 36, drove them to Prince George’s Medical Center as they lost consciousness.
The two men “were determined to be deceased by hospital medical staff upon arrival,” investigators alleged in charging documents.
Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul has said that all three men had come to the parking lot to break into cars. He said that Thomas, the survivor, would not be charged. “They were victims,” DeVaul said. “All three were victims in this particular case.”
Joseph Johnson, a cousin of James Johnson, said he recently went to his grave just to sit and be near him. Johnson said his mourning is mixed with constant images of Dixon.
“Every time I think of my cousin, I see Dixon’s face and him holding a gun, shooting at my cousin and his friends in that car,” Joseph Johnson said.
David Johnson, another cousin of James Johnson, said his days go up and down. “I have some good days. Some days I just sit and cry.”
Tiffani Collins, an attorney for the survivor, Thomas, said he and his family were relieved to learn of Dixon’s indictments.
“While Mr. Thomas continues to grieve the devastating loss of his childhood friends, he remains committed to seeking justice for himself, his family and the families of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Williams,” Collins said.
At the time of both incidents, Dixon was off-duty from his job as a police officer with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. He began his career there in July 2019. He remains on administrative leave status while the agency conducts administrative investigations of both incidents, a Pentagon Force Protection Force spokeswoman said last week.
The incident last year — in Dixon’s condo lobby at 3 a.m. on May 6 — came and went relatively quietly until recently. Takoma Park Police originally did not charge him. When the Pentagon Force Protection Agency investigated the matter, he was cleared of misconduct — even though there was surveillance video of the incident captured by the condominium’s security system.
It showed Dixon clearly pointing the shotgun, according to WJLA television, which obtained the video this month and published it.
After Takoma Police saw the video this month, they charged Dixon in the incident. They said that in 2020 they spoke to Dixon and the woman about the incident, but neither mentioned the shotgun. Police also said they never saw the video — and evidently never asked the condo association if footage was available.
In documents released in April, the Takoma Overlook Condominium board of directors said that it did send a copy of the video to the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
The new charges filed in the lobby case prompted the Pentagon Force Protection Agency to reopen its administration investigation of that case, said the agency spokeswoman, Jacqueline Yost. She declined to say if the agency had indeed received and reviewed video of the encounter in 2020.
The first indictment Thursday charged Dixon with seven counts: two counts of murder in the deaths of Williams and Johnson; counts of attempted murder and first-degree assault in the shooting at Thomas; and three counts of use of a handgun during the commission of a felony crime. For counts related to Thomas, if Dixon were to be convicted of both attempted murder and first-degree assault, the charges likely would be “merged” and he could not be sentenced for both counts.
The second indictment, related to the 2020 lobby case, charged Dixon with one count of first-degree assault for the alleged shotgun pointing and one count of second-degree assault for the alleged pepper spray discharge.