BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The teen accused of killing a Baltimore County cop was arrested in December, January, February and March. He was essentially put on house arrest but then went missing when officers were unable to find him before the murder. This has reignited the debate over the Baltimore Juvenile Justice System.
Sixteen-year-old Dawnta Harris is not a stranger to the juvenile court system. He has been arrested four times in six months and has been detained as recently as April 17.
Despite being taken into custody in April, he made his way back onto the streets, only to be pinned with the murder of Officer Amy Caprio.
Police say Caprio responded to a report of a suspicious black Jeep and burglary and followed the vehicle into Linwen Way in Perry Hall where the four-year veteran got out of her car and asked the driver to step out. The suspect, Harris, opened the door then closed it and proceeded to drive over Caprio, according to prosecutors.
“Did the system not work? It sounds like it could’ve worked better in this particular case,” Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan said Tuesday.
Court documents show that Harris was put on the community detention program on May 10, ordered to wear a bracelet and to only leave his home for school.
Paperwork shows that he violated the order on May 14 and a rapid response team tried to locate him at Excel Academy and at home but they were unsuccessful. On May 15, the team tracked down Harris at home holding a violation conference.
The next day, his electronic monitor notified officers that he left his home yet again. This time attempts to locate him were unsuccessful. That’s when his compliance was deemed poor, and juvenile services requested that the court bring him in.
On May 18, he didn’t show up to the hearing, but his mother did. Instead of issuing a bench warrant, the court postponed the matter until May 22, which never came with Caprio being murdered one day before.
“Perhaps this 16-year-old should not have been out. Now, we are treating him as an adult because of the gravity of the offense committed,” Chief Sheridan said.
The Department of Juvenile Services were quick to point the finger at the courts and the City State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby. She was appalled and disheartened that the blame is put on her. She said the responsibility falls on them and called the system “broken down.”
“If the court imposes community detention with electronic monitoring over our objection, the knowledge, the issuance, the responsibility of monitoring home detention is then on the Department of Juvenile Services,” Mosby said in a press conference Wednesday. “This incident sheds light on an inherently broken juvenile justice system, which provides a recurring door for troubled youth to graduate to more severe crimes without the opportunity for appropriate rehabilitation and care.”
The Department of Juvenile Services released the following statement regarding Mosby’s comments:
“We are surprised by the defensiveness in Ms. Mosby’s recent comments. Secretary Abed has made no accusations about the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City doing or not doing anything in the Harris matter. We have always maintained and continue to maintain that the State’s Attorney‘s Office serves an important role in the juvenile justice system.
The department takes juvenile confidentiality very seriously. However, details about Mr. Harris’ juvenile matters have already been publicly released and confidentiality is no longer applicable.
If the juvenile justice system is going to improve, all of the partners must work together.”