BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A Baltimore County judge Wednesday sentenced 17-year-old Dawnta Harris to life in prison with the possibility of parole in the killing of Officer Amy Caprio.

Harris was also sentenced to 20 years for burglary and five years for theft.

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He did not speak at sentencing but one of his defense attorneys, Warren Brown, read his handwritten letter to the judge.

“I didn’t want to hurt her,“ Harris wrote. “I just felt I was in a life-or-death situation. I wish I could go back to that day and not do what I did.“


Seventeen-year-old Harris was found guilty of killing Caprio in May, a year after she had died while responding to a burglary call in a Perry Hall neighborhood.

Investigators said three teens were burglarizing a home while Harris waited outside in a getaway car, a stolen Jeep Wrangler that would become a deadly weapon.

During the trial, a body cam video showed the fatal encounter: Caprio ordered Harris to get out of the car, pulling out her gun. That’s when he hit the gas.

Officer Caprio fired one shot before Harris ran her over in the Jeep.

The other three teens pleaded guilty to felony murder charges in June.

Caprio’s husband and mother spoke at the hearing.

“Amy was unnecessarily and remorselessly killed,” her husband Tim Caprio said.

He wept in court and told Judge Jan Alexander how the killing “shattered my life.”

“She was selfless—the best person I ever knew,” he said.

Asked whether he thought Harris was remorseful, Caprio’s father Garry Sorrells told reporters, “It’s amazing how many people ‘get sorry’ and have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment when they’re really down and out and the only solution is to come up with something.”

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He added, “I don’t know. I can’t look inside his heart.”

Caprio’s mother Debra Sorrells said she sees her daughter’s memory in so many things.

“Amy is with us. I have no doubt about that. I see her through her sisters, friends, and coworkers,“ Sorrells said. “As long as she’s alive in us, she’s alive in spirit.”

She said she tries to stay positive.

“Thinking negatively pulls me into a deep, dark, bottomless pit that is filled with terror and loneliness. I choose not to go there because I fear I may not escape,” Sorrells said.

She said it gives her comfort that people were with her daughter during her dying moments.

As the sentence was announced, Harris’ mother let out a gasp and began to cry. She did not address the court.

Defense attorneys brought up Harris’ upbringing in West Baltimore’s Gilmor Homes, where defense attorney Brown referred to “garbage in the streets” and “rats running through.”

Brown noted his client’s mother tried repeatedly to get her son help. He was on home detention and wearing an ankle monitor at the time of the murder.

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren previously looked into Harris’ background—and how his mother begged her son be put in juvenile detention after he became “out of control” and stole several cars.

Brown asked for no more than 30 years behind bars for his client, but he said the life sentence “wasn’t unexpected. The judge is under a lot of pressure. It’s a sad day for everybody.”

Fellow defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon said they will appeal the life sentence.

“We’re going to keep fighting,” he said.

Harris will be eligible for parole in as few as 15 years. His attorneys already said they will file an appeal after the sentencing, but the judge has denied a motion for a new trial.

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He will likely serve his sentence at the Patuxent Institution as part of a youthful offenders program.