Michael Hetle, a former police officer who later became an executive for NASA, has been found guilty of first-degree murder for killing his Black neighbor.
Hetle, who is white, had reportedly been feuding with 24-year-old Javon Prather for years. The former cop — who killed two people in the line of duty — claimed authorities did little to assist when he made complaints about loud noise and dog droppings that he claimed were emanating from Prather’s next-door townhouse in Springfield, Virginia.
On Thursday, Oct. 14, a jury found the 54-year-old Virginia man guilty of shooting the Maryland National Guardsman seven times in March 2020.
Hetle’s own Ring doorbell camera captured the moments when his front door opened and he began firing at Prather, who was standing on Hetle’s porch.
In the clip, viewers can see Hetle walk outside and fire his weapon, shooting and killing Prather. Seven shots went off in the matter of six seconds, four of which were at point-blank range and two in the back as the young man tumbled down a set of stairs.
Hetle fired his last shot as Prather lay in the driveway.
There were several witnesses, including Prather’s wife. Hetle had reportedly yelled at her as she was trying to figure out what led to her husband’s killing.
Six months before the incident, Prather was spotted in a video driving by Hetle’s home, shouting at him. During trial, Hetle’s attorneys argued that the man acted in self-defense in the deadly shooting and thought Prather had a gun.
However, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano argued that it was “not self-defense, that it was murder in the first degree, which is murder with malice and murder with premeditation.”
Descano told the outlet that the video footage from the home security system played a crucial role in Hetle’s conviction.
“Being able to actually show the jury what happened and actually being able to show the demeanor and the seven shots I think really brought home to the jury the malice of getting this first-degree murder conviction,” he explained.
He later added, “Mr. Prather served in the Maryland National Guard and had a bright future ahead of him. He should be with his family and community today. While this outcome will not return him to his loved ones, my heart and thoughts are with the Prathers, and I hope this conviction brings them some small measure of peace.”
Hetle was also found guilty of using a weapon in commission of a felony and could face up to life in prison when he is sentenced early next year.
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