DC Police Officer Indicted for Murder

Two Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers have been charged in connection with the death of 20-year-old Karon Hylton-Brown, who was struck by a vehicle during a police chase. One of those officers faces murder charges.

Terence Sutton and Andrew Zabavsky turned themselves into federal court marshals on Sept. 24, Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said during a press conference that day. Sutton, a 37-year-old officer, is charged with second-degree murder, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Zabavsky, a 53-year-old lieutenant, is charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. 

On Oct. 23, 2020, at about 10:09 p.m., officers saw Hylton-Brown driving a moped on a sidewalk without a helmet on the 500 block of Kennedy Street, NW, according to a MPD press release issued four days later. 

According to the indictment, Sutton was driving an unmarked police car with three other officers.  Zabavsky was alone in a marked police car. They reportedly tried to stop Hylton-Brown but, when he did not stop, activated their emergency lights and pursued him. 

Sutton followed Hylton-Brown through an alleyway. As Hylton-Brown exited the alley, he collided with a vehicle. 

Hylton-Brown sustained severe head trauma from the crash. He died two days later.

The MPD released Body Worn Camera footage of the incident shortly after.

According to the indictment, MPD General Orders prohibit officers from pursuing a vehicle for the purpose of a traffic violation.

The indictment alleges that Sutton “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.”

Sutton and Zabavsky are also accused of trying to hide the circumstances of the fatal collision from MPD officials.

According to the indictment, the two officers allegedly failed to notify the MPD’s Major Crash Unit as to Hylton-Brown’s condition as he laid in the street following the collision. They also allegedly failed to take routine steps to collect evidence relevant to a traffic crash investigation and allegedly misrepresented the incident to a watch commander.

Sutton is accused of denying that he engaged in a vehicular pursuit of the victim. Zabavsky is accused of withholding all information about his involvement in the incident.

The two defendants appeared before District Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui on the afternoon of Sept. 24, according to the DOJ. They were released and scheduled to return to court on Oct. 4.

The defendants are on administrative leave, Contee said. They’ve been served a notice of intent for their indefinite suspension. They are currently being paid, but could loose their pay depending on the outcome of the process, which Contee said is part of a collective bargaining agreement. 

“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,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips in a Department of Justice press release. “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.”