Former officer and NASA exec found guilty of murdering neighbor after years of disputes over loud music and dog poop
Michael Hetle, accused of shooting his 24-year-old neighbor, has been found guilty of murder.
Hetle shot Javon Prather seven times and threatened to shoot his wife, who looked on, as well.
Since 2016, Hetle and Prather have had several disagreements about mundane things like loud music.
A jury on Thursday found a Virginia man, accused of shooting his next-door neighbor, guilty of first-degree murder.
Michael Hetle, a 52-year-old former police officer and NASA executive, shot 24-year-old Javon Prather seven times, a video of which was caught by a Ring doorbell camera, local news outlet WTOP reported.
Hetle and Prather had feuded for years, arguing over mundane things like dog poop and loud music, according to local news outlets. Since 2016, Hetle has called the police to complain about barking dog noises coming from Prather’s house, WTOP said.
Before the jury, Hetle’s attorney argued that he acted in self-defense. Hetle said he believed Prather was armed and claimed to have been threatened by him multiple times ahead of the shooting.
Prosecutors, however, said it was “not self-defense, that it was murder in the first degree, which is murder with malice and murder with premeditation.”
The video, according to local news reports, shows Hetle firing several rounds at Prather in March 2020 while other neighbors watched. Prather’s wife was among the onlookers.
Prather had knocked on Hetle’s door, and Hetle then fired six times at him while Prather tried to run off his doorstep, according to the Washington Post.
Prather collapsed on Hetle’s driveway, and Hetle fired another time before turning to Prather’s wife.
“You want it too?” he asked, according to the Post, pointing toward his gun.
“He didn’t want Javon hurt,” Fairfax County prosecutor Lyle Burnham said during trial. “He didn’t want Javon to leave. He wanted Javon dead.”
Prosecutors also argued that “racial animus was a contributing factor” in the incident, WTOP reported. Hetle, a white man, had often referred to Prather, who’s of mixed race, using a racial epithet, according to testimony given during the trial.
Hetle is scheduled to be sentenced on January 28. Prosecutors are expected to recommend that he be sentenced to life in prison.
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