A former cop and NASA executive Michael Hetle has been found guilty of first-degree murder for killing his next door neighbor Javon Prather, a Black member of the Maryland National Guard.
According to KIRO, Hetle and Javon Prather, a 24-year-old National Guard Infantryman, had years of disputes related to dog feces, trash and noise, which ended in gunfire last March. Hetle was convicted of first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony last week.
The incident occurred March 3, 2020. The two men had a dispute earlier in the day and Hetle, who made numerous complaints to the homeowners association and police that were ignored, took matters into his own hands firing seven shots into Prather.
Hetle who shot Prather from his driveway, then threatened Prather’s wife
“You want it, too?” Hetle asked the woman.
The entire incident, along with Hetle’s threat to Prather’s wife, was captured on Hetle’s Ring doorbell camera. The video which was played frequently during the trial according to KIRO, showed Hetle open his front door and fire a shot into Prather’s stomach without warning. Prather began to run from Hetle, but couldn’t go far before Hetle fired six more shots.
The incident sparked racial tensions in Fairfax, VA as Hetle is White and Prather is mixed-race.
Part of the evidence against Hetle was the testimony of his son who told the court his father often used a racial slur when referring to Prather. Additionally, on the day of the shooting, Hetle sent an email to the homeowners association warning the feud between the two men could “result in tragedy, if nothing was done. That led prosecutors to calling the shooting premeditated.
The Washington Post reported Hetle argued he thought Prather was armed at the time of the shooting and has repeatedly threatened him for months leading up to the shooting
The jury deliberated for eight hours before handing in the guilty verdict. Hetle is facing life in prison and will be sentenced January 28. Prather’s murder came two months before the death of George Floyd which sparked nation and worldwide protests.