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Perry Hall residents, Police recount burglaries prior to Officer Caprio’s death

Posted at 3:36 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 19:40:51-04

TOWSON, Md. — The second day of the murder trial of Dawnta Harris in the killing of Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio saw the State continue to build its narrative of the death and Harris’ involvement through the testimony of Perry Hall residents affected by the crimes and police personnel who investigated. Establishing that Harris played a part in the three burglaries on May 21, 2018 is essential to the prosecution's case to prove guilt in the first degree murder charge because of Maryland's felony murder statute.

Harris was 16 at the time prosecutors said he drove the stolen Jeep at Caprio as she confronted him at the end of a cul-de-sac Perry Hall in May of 2018. Caprio had been investigating a call about suspicious activity in the area, specifically referring to the Jeep.

After defense and prosecutors differed over the sequence of events that led to Caprio’s death during opening arguments Tuesday, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office began calling witnesses Wednesday who lived in or near Linwen Way, the cul-de-sac street where Caprio died.

Wednesday, that pattern continued, as a crime lab technician called to the stand confirmed details about the stolen Jeep and a house the teens had burglarized, saying they entered the home from a broken basement door. A resident in the area then testified about seeing three boys walking through the road adjacent to Linwen Way before hearing what he suspected was a gun shot. He became suspicious something was afoot after that and tried to find the three teens he had previously seen before hearing police presence and deciding it was best to go home.

Another person who was in the area said she came within feet of a person who was later identified as Harris as he was walking in the neighborhood. She said Harris looked neat and calm at the time and did not cause suspicion, though she began to wonder more about him as she heard sirens in the area.

Harris was alleged to have been in the area with the three other teens burglarizing houses. A victim of one such burglary on the street where Caprio was struck said he had a gun, two magazines for the gun, a laptop and more stolen from his home, estimating the loss at $3,370. A police officer who responded to a burglary call that afternoon to home a two to three blocks away from Linwen said that house had been “ransacked.” That burglary victim said she returned home the day of Caprio’s death to find her house unlocked and her safe broken into. Police said they lifted fingerprints from the homes, but what was learned from that discovery was not disclosed.

After lunch, the procession of witnesses affected by the burglaries continued. Surveillance video from a package theft showed the black Jeep in front of a house and a young man stealing a package off his porch. A neighbor saw this theft but could only ID one suspect, the one that went up to the porch and too the package, and it was not Harris.

“There’s no evidence in this case that gives us grave concern,” said one of Harris’ attorneys, J. Wyndal Gordon, addressing reporters during the trial’s lunch break. Both he and co-counsel Warren Brown said no evidence presented so far links Harris directly to the robberies. They said the state is more or less conceding that point, instead trying to group Harris into the felony murder charge and attaching him to the break-ins as the group’s getaway driver.

Brown and Gordon continue to contend that Harris was not a part of the burglaries and that he did not intentionally strike Caprio, he likely didn’t even know he had hit her with the car.

“If you look at his demeanor as characterized by two of the state’s witness from the neighborhood, it was not one that was panicked, frantic, deathly afraid of being held responsible for what they had done. He was described as being orderly, mannerly,” Brown said. Harris did not even know Caprio had been struck and killed until he was questioned by police later. Brown and Gordon said if the state’s strongest evidence is the body camera footage, they are confident they can defend their client, saying they may even begin to pull apart the testimony of some witnesses to further exonerate Harris.

“We haven’t gotten into the meat and potatoes of the case yet,” Gordon said. “We’re kind of sitting back and waiting and seeing what happens.”

WMAR-2 News Reporter Abby Isaacs contributed to this report.