Judge Finds Probable Cause in Murder Case

A DC Superior Court judge ruled that the case of a fatal shooting one fall afternoon in Bellevue has enough evidence to go to trial.

Kavel Miller could not waive his right to a preliminary hearing because his competence to stand trial is currently in question and he is being held at St. Elizabeths Hospital, DC’s psychiatric institution.  The 21-year-old was found mentally incompetent in two misdemeanor assault cases he picked up before being charged with first-degree murder while armed for allegedly shooting 33-year-old Lester Mangum on the 3900 block of South Capitol Street, SW, on Oct. 8. 

The lead Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) detective on the case took the witness stand, explaining the shooting from beginning to end. The detective identified an individual in surveillance footage as Miller.  

The prosecutor asked the detective about surveillance video taken before the shooting. The video shows Miller with a group of people nearby the shooting. He leaves the area and goes to a street nearby the shooting, where he starts to follow Mangum to the corner of South Capitol and Atlantic Street. From here, the detective was questioned on multiple different clips of security footage showing different angles of the street corner where Miller allegedly followed Mangum. 

Miller “narrowed the distance and quickened his pace,” according to the prosecutor.  

A Metrobus security tape was then shown from multiple angles and a gunshot sound was heard on the tape right as Miller was closest to Mangum. The footage shows Miller allegedly getting close to Mangum and brandishing a gun from his side. 

“He has his right hand by his side as he is walking by the decedent,” the detective said. 

The detective confirmed that when the gunshot happened, both Miller and Magnum ran opposite ways. 

Miller ran off, back in the direction he originally came from and Mangum went forward and into a nearby shop where people were standing outside. MPD officers later found Mangum in this shop and transported him to a hospital where he died, according to court documents. 

Photos of Miller’s home were shown. These photos show a gold and black hoodie, black and white shoes and black pants that were recovered via a search warrant. The detective was able to confirm that these were the same clothing items worn by Miller in the surveillance tapes. 

Defender attorney Errin Scialpi argued that Mangum was fatally shot in self-defense because he had a gun on him at the time of the shooting. There was also no evidence of a relationship between the two, showing a lack of motive for Miller to kill him, Sciapli argued.

The prosecutor rebutted, arguing that if the shooting was self-defense, there would have been evidence Mangum fired his weapon.

Judge Juliet McKenna did not find probable cause and said the idea of self-defense was “simply just not persuasive.” 

Scailpi asked for Miller to be released from St. Elizabeths to his live with his family.

“He has a very strong community,” she said, noting how he had a family member in the courtroom’s gallery.

She said Miller was already on supervised release for two misdemeanor assault cases for which he was not in compliance leading up to the shooting so no combination of conditions could ensure safety with his release. 

A mental observation hearing for this case is scheduled for Dec. 21. 

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