Washington, DC – Two DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers were indicted on Sept. 23 in connection with the death of a man fleeing police who rode his moped into the side of an SUV.
The incident occurred at about 10:10 p.m. on Oct. 23 after MPD Officer Terence Sutton, 37, and MPD Lieutenant Andrew Zabavsky saw 20-year-old Karon Hylton-Brown driving a Revel electric moped down the sidewalk in the 500-block of Kennedy Street, NW, The Washington Post reported.
Hylton-Brown was not wearing a helmet, which is illegal, and was also breaking the law by riding the scooter on a sidewalk through the Brightwood Park neighborhood.
Police tried to stop the scooter but Hylton-Brown fled, according to the DCist.
Bodyworn camera from the driver of the police car that was directly behind Hylton-Brown showed more details of what happened the night he crashed.
Hylton-Brown could be seen on his moped crossing in front of the officers in their police car just as the video began.
The officers followed him in their separate police cars.
Officer Sutton’s attorney said during the hearing for his client’s release that the pursuit was justified because the officers had justifiably believed the Hylton-Brown had a gun.
The indictment handed down on Sept. 23 said that Officer Sutton pursued Hylton-Brown at speeds of up to 45 mph “through neighborhood streets with pedestrians and other vehicles present,” WTOP reported.
Charging documents said Officer Sutton drove the wrong-way down one-way street and ran seven stop signs during the pursuit while Lt. Zabavsky went an alternate route and tried to cut Hylton-Brown off.
Bodycam video showed that Hylton-Brown led the officers down an alleyway and when he emerged in the 700-block of Kennedy Street, NW, he slammed directly into the side of a moving SUV that was driving down the road.
Bodycam video showed Hylton-Brown flew off his moped and landed about 15 feet away from it on the street.
The shocked driver of the vehicle that Hylton crashed into stopped farther down the block, the video showed.
Officers performed First Aid until the ambulance arrived and then the moped driver was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The indictment said both Officer Sutton and Lt. Zabavsky failed to take any witness statements from anyone except the driver of the SUV that Hylton-Brown had crashed into, WTOP reported.
Charging documents also alleged that Officer Sutton let the driver of the SUV leave the scene 20 minutes after the moped ran into him, then he and Lt. Zabavsky turned off their bodycams and talked privately.
Afterwards, Officer Sutton violated procedure and left the scene in his patrol vehicle, according to the indictment.
Charging documents showed allegations that Officer Sutton and Lt. Zabavsky lied to a superior officer and said that Officer Sutton hadn’t chased Hylton-Brown, WTOP reported.
They also allegedly minimized his injuries to supervisors even though they knew he was likely dying, which delayed the launch of an internal affairs investigation into the incident, according to the complaint.
Officer Sutton, 37, a 10-veteran of the DC police force, has been charged with second-degree murder, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice, WTOP reported.
If convicted, he is facing up to five years on the conspiracy charges, up to 20 years on the obstruction charges, and as much as 40 years-to-life on the murder charge if the judge finds there were certain aggravating circumstances.
Officer Sutton has been on administrative leave since the crash and was placed on home detention after the indictment.
Lt. Zabavsky, an 18-year veteran of the police department, was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice, WTOP reported.
The lieutenant had remained on active duty in command of the city’s Fourth District right up until he was charged on Sept. 23.
He was released from custody on location monitoring and with a midnight-to-6 a.m. curfew, WTOP reported.
“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and ensure the safety of the community. The vast majority of officers execute their duties in an exemplary manner, and we are grateful for their dedicated service,” Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said in a statement when the indictment was unsealed on Friday.
“But when a select few violate their oath by engaging in criminal conduct, they cannot do so with impunity and must be held accountable. This indictment seeks to do just that,” the prosecutor said.
DC Police Chief Robert Contee said MPD would conduct its own investigation after the criminal justice process was completed, WTOP reported.
“I know that this indictment today may seem like an indictment of all of the members of the department,” Chief Contee said. “I assure you that there are many in the community, who recognize the hard work that you do, who support the work that you do, who understand that you make decisions, split second decisions, and you do it professionally; you do it constitutionally; you do it procedurally correct, day in and day out.”
“We will continue to support the good work that our officers continue to do. Unfortunately, we are dealing with the situation that we are dealing with today. But I assure you, we will get through this together,” the police chief said.