Judge Finds Substantial Probability After Parties Scrutinize Footage of Deadly Encounter

A DC Superior Court judge found substantial probability in the case of a fatal shooting last October.

Javon Duckwilder is charged with first-degree murder while armed in the shooting of 23-year old Juwan Smith on Oct. 23, 2021, at a BP gas station on the 2800 block of Alabama Avenue, SE.

The 24-year-old defendant was offered a plea deal for second-degree murder, but this was rejected.

During the Feb. 15 preliminary hearing, the prosecution questioned the lead detective on the case about evidence obtained during the investigation into Smith’s death, including video footage showing what happened at the gas station that night. 

The footage shows Duckwilder walking from Naylor Road, SE, while Smith was pumping gas. After Duckwilder leaves the gas station, he and Smith begin conversing. The conversation quickly escalates into an argument that continues towards a bus stop. Smith turns his back to Duckwilder as the altercation seemingly dies down. With Smith’s back turned, Duckwilder reaches into his coat pocket, pulls out a pistol and fires in Smith’s direction. The defendant then appears to flee the scene. No weapons were found on Smith when first responders arrived.

The prosecutor explained how Duckwilder can be seen wearing a Redskins hat, a colorful jacket and red New Balance shoes in the footage. He was wearing the same attire when he was arrested that same night.

When Duckwilder was apprehended, he allegedly had a gun in his possession that matched the shell casings found at the crime scene. Defense attorney Jesse Winograd said that, during the investigation, only three of the shell casings would have fit Duckwilder’s weapon.  The other two belonged to another weapon that was not recovered.  Winograd argued that his client most likely only fired his weapon in response to two previous gunshots.  

Winograd replayed the video of the fatal encounter, attempting to show that the victim made a quick movement before he was shot. 

The prosecution pointed out how Duckwilder appeared to check his surroundings before firing his weapon at close range.

“Duckwilder was clearly the aggressor and did not flinch or duck while shooting the decedent,” the prosecutor said. She asked Judge Milton Lee to make a finding of substantial probability, a higher standard than probable cause.

Winograd said his client was being surrounded by two men at the gas station and argued no one really knows who the aggressor was.

“Smith turns and dips down before the gunshots occurred,” he said. 

After making a finding of substantial probability, Judge Lee denied the defense’s request to release Duckwilder from DC Jail due to his violent criminal history.

Parties are slated to reconvene for a status hearing on May 2. The prosecutor hopes to have an indictment by then.

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