Washington, DC, police officer Terence Sutton has been indicted on local and federal charges related to the October 2020 police pursuit and crash that led to the death of 20-year-old Karon Hylton-Brown.
Sutton was indicted of second-degree murder and federal charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Sutton, 37, is an officer with the crime suppression unit team of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). He has been with the force for 12 years.
MPD Lieutenant Andrew Zabavsky, 53, was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, DCist reported.
Their next hearing is set for Oct. 4.
Sutton has been on administrative since the crash in Brightwood Park; with the indictment, both Sutton and Zabavsky have been served a notice of intent to suspend them indefinitely without pay, according to the MPD.
The pursuit occurred on Oct. 23, 2020, after officers, who were traveling in an unmarked cruiser, observed Hylton-Brown, a young African-American man, riding a rented Revel moped without a helmet and attempted to make a traffic stop. Police-worn bodycam footage shows a police cruiser moving at increased speeds, pursuing Hylton-Brown on the moped through alleyways until he collided with a passenger vehicle, DCist reported.
Hylton-Brown suffered severe head trauma and succumbed to his injuries on Oct. 25, according to court documents. The indictment alleges that Sutton, who is white, caused Hylton-Brown’s death by “driving a police vehicle in conscious disregard for an extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury to Hylton-Brown.”
The charging documents allege that Sutton, at times, drove double the speed limit during the chase, which lasted more than three minutes. Zabavsky, who was Sutton’s supervising lieutenant, allegedly pursued Hylton-Brown alone in his marked police car.
Under MPD policy officers are forbidden from making chases in patrol cars unless they are pursuing a suspect in a felony or someone who poses a threat of serious physical harm, or unless they have no other options.
Sutton and Zabavsky are also charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. According to the charging papers, the officers did not take “routine steps” to collect evidence in a traffic crash incident, “including preserving the scene, collecting witness information, or interviewing witnesses.”
The two also allegedly turned off their body-worn cameras and had a private conversation. The officers are also alleged to have provided a “misleading” account of the Hylton-Brown incident to their watch commander, DCist reported.
According to Hylton-Brown’s family and friends, he was working towards his GED and recently become a father to a three-month-old girl.
“He was a really, really humble young man. I never heard Karon curse in front of me,” a family friend told DCist/WAMU last fall. “No bad energy from Karon, ever.”
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Protests broke out in DC following Hylton-Brown’s death. His family and friends attended the demonstrations that lasted at least five nights outside MPD’s Fourth District station. Protesters demanded answers for his death and spoke out against what they said is a pattern of police targeting young Black men in their neighborhood. Some of those at the protests said they were witnesses to the police chase before Hylton-Brown’s death and claimed he tried to stop MPD officers from chasing him, DCist reported.
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