PERRY HALL, Md (WJZ/AP) — Police believe a burglary was the motive for why Baltimore County police officer Amy Caprio was fatally injured Monday when she responded to a call in Perry Hall, Maryland.
Sixteen-year-old Dawnta Anthony Harris of the 1600 block of Vincent Court in West Baltimore’s Gilmore Homes was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Caprio’s slaying.
Harris will be charged as an adult.
“He did an act which impacts a family, a spouse, brothers and sisters in law enforcement…the institution,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan. “It’s…no, that young man has done an act where he should be treated as an adult.”
Sheridan said in a press conference Tuesday that three other teens — ages 17, 16 and 15 — are in police custody as they continue their investigation into Caprio’s death and the related burglary.
Darrell Ward, 15, Derrick Matthews, 16, and Eugene Genius, 17, are charged with burglary and first degree murder. They are being held without bail.
According to the police chief, Caprio’s death was ruled a homicide and she died from multiple trauma to the head and torso.
Police believe Harris ran Caprio over in a stolen black Jeep.
WHAT LED TO AMY CAPRIO’S DEATH
Sheridan said Caprio was responding to a call for a suspicious vehicle and burglary in progress in the unit block of Linwen Way when she encountered the suspect.
She followed the black Jeep into the cul-de-sac where it stopped and turned around.
Caprio got out of her car and ordered the driver of the black Jeep out. Initially, the driver opened the door, but then closed the door and struck Caprio, driving over her.
Sheridan said she was seriously injured at that point and was taken to Medstar Franklin Square Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Harris was picked up on Belair Road immediately after the incident due to witness descriptions.
“The subsequent investigation led us to three additional suspects in the burglaries,” Sheridan said. “We now have them in custody and we’re continuing our investigation into that part of the case.”
Harris, who was arrested near where the Jeep was found abandoned, told a detective he had been waiting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle as other associates of his were in the process of committing a burglary, according to the probable cause statement.
Harris also told the detective that he “drove at the officer,” the statement said.
The police chief also clarified that the officer was not shot.
Witnesses reported hearing a pop before seeing a Jeep run her over.
“We have not recovered any firearms, but there was a firearm stolen in a burglary that occurred about two miles from the burglary on Linwen Place,” Sheridan said, “And we are investigating both with having similar MOs and suspect that they may be related.”
Detectives have confirmed that there was a bullet hole in the windshield of the Jeep, suggesting Officer Caprio fired her gun at the driver just before being struck by the Jeep.
The Jeep was stolen out of Baltimore City and had stolen tags from another vehicle, police said.
HARRIS HAD CRIMINAL PAST
Police said the teens were burglarizing a home when Caprio responded to the neighborhood.
They had thrown a rock into a window to get inside the home on Linwen Way, stealing jewelry, cash and “anything they could get their hands on.”
Police believe the four teens — including Harris — were acting together to commit a series of burglaries.
“I don’t know how organized it was” Sheridan said. “We know that they are responsible for at at least one burglary at Linwen and we do believe and suspect that they caused a burglary at a home 2 miles away.”
While Caprio was lying injured in the street, the four teens fled — three of them, police believe caught a ride with public transit or called someone to pick them up.
This wasn’t Harris’ first brush with crime. He was arrested four times for car theft and each time he was adjudicated and bounced around in community programs.
On April 17, Harris was detained on a writ on request from the Department of Juvenile Services, secretary Sam Abed said. On May 10, there was a detention hearing for Harris and without the department’s knowledge, he was released with electronic monitoring.
Even his mother called the agency on May 14, when her son didn’t show up for work.
“Our staff was in contact his mother on numerous occasions,” Abed said. They tried his cell phone, turned up at his school and went to places he frequented. “We made many attempts to contact this man.”
But, Harris wasn’t compliant with the electronic monitoring and the department asked to court to bring Harris in again for non-compliance. The hearing on May 18 resulted in a continuance and no order from the court.
Three days later, Caprio was facing Harris on Linwen Way.
He is now being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.
CAPRIO WAS ‘SMART, ATHLETIC, ENERGETIC’
The 29-year-old officer was just shy of her four year anniversary with the Baltimore County Police Department when her life was “snuffed out.”
She was assigned to the Parkville precinct and Chief Sheridan said she had the potential to be “one of the leaders of this organization in the future.”
“Officer Caprio is the type of officer you want to hire,” he said. “Smart, athletic, energetic and with not quite 4 years on the job she was starting to show she had all the potential to be an excellent officer.”
Caprio lived with her husband, Tim, and her dog, Doodle, in Harford County.
She was a 2010 graduate of Towson University with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. She wanted to become a physical therapist, but found her true passion in police work, graduating from the police academy in 2014.
Caprio loved the outdoors, mountain biking and kayaking. She had scheduled time off this upcoming week to celebrate her third wedding anniversary and their birthdays.
“It was an honor to be her supervisor. I can personally say that she had a work ethic like no other. She truly loved being a police officer and helping others – this was her passion and definitely her calling,” Officer Caprio’s supervisor, Lieutenant Chemelli said. “She made the ultimate sacrifice doing a job that she loved. She will be greatly missed by our shift and will forever be our hero.”
“When you hire someone like that and you see that potential,” Sheridan added. “When it’s snuffed out like this you have motions that make you wonder what’s going on out there.”
Caprio will be laid to rest Friday, May 25 with a funeral at Mountain Christian Church in Fallston, Maryland. Her viewing will be Thursday, May 24 at Schimunek Funeral Home, 9705 Belair Rd. in Perry Hall.
Caprio is the first female officer to die in the line of duty in the department’s 144 year history.
NEIGHBORS TRIED TO HELP
Tony Kurek told WJZ’s Mike Schuh his son was outside in the family’s yard Monday afternoon in the northeast Baltimore County community when the son saw the officer with her gun drawn, confronting the occupants of a Jeep.
“The next thing he heard was a pop, and he saw the Jeep take off and run right over her,” said Kurek. The car left skid marks behind, he said, leaving the officer down and bleeding.
Logan Kurek, who is a volunteer firefighter, said he heard his younger brother “frantically screaming” and ran outside to perform CPR.
Events began unfolding Monday afternoon in the leafy neighborhood of single-family homes. It was then that Kurek’s neighbor, Dahle Amendt, said he had just settled into his recliner for a rest when he heard a woman’s voice outside his house.
“I heard, ‘Get out of the car!’ ‘Get out of the car!’ Get out of the car!’ at least three times, and then a pop,” Amendt said.
Amendt said his wife also ran outside and tried to revive the officer.
“This is a shock. It’s a quiet community. It’s just so sad,” Amendt said.
Investigators urged residents in a sizable swath of Perry Hall to stay hunkered down inside their homes and lock all doors and windows as officers search the community fringed with woodlands. Three elementary schools were kept on alert status for hours, with students and teachers told to stay in their school buildings as police continued a search for the suspects. By Monday evening, parents were allowed to come to the schools to pick up their youngsters.
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