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Springfield man accused of killing neighbor takes the stand

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A Springfield, Virginia, man charged with first degree murder in the death of his next-door neighbor took the witness stand in Fairfax County Circuit Court Tuesday.

A Springfield, Virginia, man charged with first-degree murder in the death of his next-door neighbor took the witness stand in Fairfax County Circuit Court Tuesday to describe what led to the shooting that was captured by a Ring doorbell camera of his front porch.

Detailing more than two years of run-ins and conflict before the March 2020 killing, Michael Hetle, 54, described Javon Prather, 24, as “engulfed with rage,” banging on his front door so violently it gave way a few inches and rattled windows of his home.



Hetle said he believed Prather had a small gun in his pocket. Fearing for his safety and that of his wife and young child, he pulled the door open, and began firing at Prather. He continued to fire even as Prather fell down the front steps because Hetle said he saw no reaction from Prather and no indication the rounds were “taking effect.”

Hetle told the court his gun, typically located upstairs in a drawer, was in the living room in its case before the incident because he intended to clean it.

Fairfax County prosecutor Joe Martin asked Hetle whether he remembers firing a seventh shot after Prather had tumbled down the front stairs and landed on the driveway.

“I see from the video that I did,” Hetle said.

In the years leading up to the shooting, there were alleged incidents of Prather being on Hetle’s roof, in his yard, egging his car, verbally abusing him and making several threats of violence, even in the presence of a police officer.

Documents show Hetle requested a protective order against Prather that was denied. There was a successful restraining order against wife Janelle Prather related to her destruction of property arrest after an incident with Hetle.

Hetle described an encounter in December 2019 that he said felt like a cold bucket of fear being poured over his head. As he walked his dogs in the dark, Hetle was approached by Prather. Prather stared at Hetle so intently that he nearly tripped over one of the dogs, flinched and dropped a knife before running away, the 54-year-old said.

Hetle told the jury that he believed Prather “was going to perpetuate an attack on me.”

After Hetle fired seven bullets in 8 seconds and his neighbor went down, video of the incident showed Hetle appearing to point the gun toward Janelle Prather — who was sitting on her front stoop next door — and shouting, “You want it too?”

Hetle told her to get out of there, indicating she should not come to her husband’s aid. He described what he thought was her moving a knife behind her body to hide it and thinking, “He has a gun; she has a knife … I feared they’d collaborate on an attack.”

Hetle also described being told by police and a Prather family member that Javon and Janelle were “targeting him” and were “out to get him.”

Closing arguments are planned for Wednesday afternoon.

Hetle is charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. But during instructions, prosecutors and the defense will agree whether lesser included offenses would be appropriate for presentation for consideration by the jury.

Just before the trial concluded, Hetle said he was not happy about what happened that day, calling it a “sad, tragic event, horrific occurrence with a horrible outcome. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody to deal with and go through it.”

Heltle was an administrator for NASA for 10 years and worked for Homeland Security. He was a police officer for nine years in two West Coast cities, including Bellevue, Washington.

Prather served as an infantryman for nearly four years in the Maryland National Guard. His mother, Shavon Prather, told NBC Washington that her son and Hetle argued for years.

“(Hetle) would call the HOA (home owners association) and say there was dog poop in their backyard,” Shavon Prather told The Washington Post. “He would call and complain when they put out trash. Anything he could do to scold them and to get them in trouble.”

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Crime

Spray-painted hate speech discovered in Bethesda

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Police in Montgomery County, Maryland, say they are investigating spray-painted hate speech at a Bethesda grocery store, a high school and two churches.

Police in Montgomery County, Maryland, say they are investigating spray-painted hate speech at a Bethesda grocery store, a high school and two churches.

Police said officers observed garbage Dumpsters with blue spray paint reading “WHITE PRIDE 2021,” behind the Giant at 10400 Old Georgetown Rd. on the morning of Oct. 3.

Officers learned a short time later that the phrases “NO COMMIES,” “LGBT IS UNNATURAL” and “WHITE PRIDE” with circles and crosses spray-painted in blue were found at multiple spots a few hundred feet away at Walter Johnson High School, at 6400 Rock Spring Drive.

Police said officers were advised of similar vandalism in the immediate area — on the welcome sign of a church in the 10000 block of Old Georgetown Road, and at a bus stop at Old Georgetown Road and Democracy Boulevard shortly after.

Officers were advised of more vandalism on the Bethesda Trolley Trail and at another church in the 6000 block of Grosvenor Lane, police said.

All the vandalism was committed in the space of about a half-mile square.

Surveillance video shows images of a potential suspect who appeared to be a male, slim to medium build, wearing a light-colored hat, dark red (possibly plaid) shirt or jacket, tan pants and brown boots, according to police. The potential suspect was wearing a headlamp and a backpack too.

Montgomery County police released these images of the suspect in the vandalism.

Police are asking anyone with more information on the incident or the identity of the suspect to call the 2nd District Patrol Investigations Unit at 240-773-6726.

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Police: DC police officer jumps from moving car, fires weapon during struggle with armed suspect

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An officer was dragged across the road after trying to make a traffic stop in the area of Brightwood in Northwest D.C. Friday.

Two D.C. police officers were injured and a suspect was wounded after an altercation that caused an officer to jump from a moving vehicle driven in the Brightwood Park neighborhood in Northwest D.C. Friday afternoon.

D.C. police Chief Robert Contee said officers were flagged down by someone who reported that an armed man with a cast on his arm was chasing another individual. The officers radioed that information and officers in the area began looking for someone meeting that description.

Road closures were put into effect at 500 Kennedy Street NW for a police investigation following the incident.

A little while later, officers stopped a man matching that description and felt a firearm in his waistband during a search, according to Contee. A fight then broke out, and the suspect managed to break free and run to an alleyway, where he got into a vehicle.

Police tried to get the man out of the car, as one officer entered into the rear seat in an effort to remove him. However, the suspect was able to start the vehicle, injuring one officer as the car took off down Kennedy Street.

The officer who entered through the rear asked the suspect several times to stop, but the man kept driving, Contee said.

“During that that drive down Kennedy Street, a shot was fired by our officer, striking the individual,” Contee said.

It was initially reported that the officer was dragged, but Contee clarified that the officer inside the car jumped out of the rear after shooting the suspect. Despite being shot by police, the suspect inside the car continued to go down the street.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty reported that a man with a gunshot wound turned up at a nearby hospital shortly after the incident. Contee confirmed that the individual was the suspect wanted in this incident.

Contee said the man had a single gunshot wound, and was taken into surgery for treatment. Police are still looking for his vehicle, which is described as a dark-colored Jeep.

Two officers were sent to hospitals to be treated for injuries caused during the incident. D.C. police are still investigating the area and looking for video from nearby crime cameras.

Brightwood Park was identified as one of the five areas the District was focusing on in its 2021 Fall Crime Prevention Initiative. Contee confirmed police increased its presence in the area recently, adding that it was “disrespectful to the community” that the suspect chased someone down the street with a loaded gun.

Contee thanked the resident who warned officers of the armed man, and asked any other potential witnesses — such as the man who was being chased — to come forward and offer a statement to police by calling 202-727-9099.

“This is an incident where one of our brave officers is out here, and citizens did exactly what we asked them to do: they told a police officer,” Contee said. ” …[To] that citizen, thank you. They did what they exactly what they were supposed to do and those officers, they did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

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Loudoun man apprehended after pointing gun, crashing car in police chase

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A man pointed a gun at a Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputy before fleeing, pointing a gun at a construction worker a short time later and then crashing the car he was driving after deputies say they tried to serve him multiple felony warrants. 

A man pointed a gun at a Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputy before fleeing, pointing a gun at a construction worker a short time later and then crashing the car he was driving after deputies say they tried to serve him multiple felony warrants.

The chase happened along the Fairfax-Loudoun County, Virginia, line on Thursday night.

Deputies said Terry Settles, 48, was seen getting into the passenger-side of a car in South Riding. But when deputies tried to pull the car over, the sheriff’s office said the car turned into the McBryde Terrace neighborhood.

Then, deputies say Settles pushed the driver out of the car and climbed behind the wheel. When a deputy tried to apprehend Settles, he pointed a gun at the deputy, according to the sheriff’s office.

The deputy went to take cover and Settles shut the door on him. Deputies said Settles backed into a sheriff’s car before driving off into Fairfax County. Deputies say they then lost sight of the vehicle and began coordinating with Fairfax County Police.

The sheriff’s office was told that Settles pulled a gun on a construction worker near Bull Run Post Office Road in Loudoun County.

Law enforcement from the Fairfax County Police Department, the Prince William County Police Department, the Virginia State Police, and the U.S. Park Police helicopter helped search for Settles.

Settles was found in a wooded area between Bull Run Post Office Road and Braddock Road, armed with a knife and refusing to come out of the woods, according to deputies.

Soon after, he was taken into custody. Both a knife and a gun were found at the scene. No members of law enforcement were hurt in the pursuit. Settles was taken to a hospital for minor injuries.

Deputies said Settles abandoned the car he was driving in a wooded area near where he was found after he was “involved in a single-vehicle crash.”

He was arrested on multiple charges including attempted aggravated murder, two counts of assault on law enforcement, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and driving on a revoked license.

Fairfax County, Prince William County, and Frederick County all served Settles with warrants. Settles is at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center on no bond.

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