Dawnta Harris, 16, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio. (Baltimore County Police Department)
PERRY HALL, Md. — Dakota Kurek hears the screams in his head over and over, like an echo that keeps getting louder.
He says he will never shake the horrific sight of the police officer lying crumpled on the street in front of his house in a quiet cul-de-sac in Perry Hall Monday afternoon after being run down by a black Jeep Wrangler and suffering fatal injuries.
“I saw her point her weapon at the Jeep and say, ‘Get out of the car!’ Then she said, ‘Get out of the car!’ a second time and they just accelerated,” Kurek told the Baltimore Post-Examiner Tuesday. “They just ran right over her. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
He ran into his the house and screamed to his father, Tony Kurek, “Dad, dad, dad, a Jeep just ran over a cop out front!”
His father, the owner of a car dealership who has lived in the Perry Hall house for 20 years, bolted out of the house with Dakota’s older brother, Logan, a volunteer firefighter who performed CPR on Officer Amy Caprio, 29, and screamed into his radio: “Officer down! Officer down!”
Dakota Kurek, 20, who works at his father’s dealership, recalled the horror that unfolded before him.
“One minute, the police officer was standing there; the next, she’s run down by this Jeep and thrown 20 feet, and she’s lying on the street fighting for her life,” he said. “I was just hunched over her, crying. I said, ‘You’re gonna be all right. Everything’s gonna be OK.’ I can’t stop thinking, What human being could ever do this to a police officer?”
Baltimore County police said Tuesday that Dawnta Anthony Harris, of the 1600 block of Vincent Court in the Gilmor Homes complex in West Baltimore, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Caprio, who died Monday afternoon at Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center.
Harris was arrested Monday about a quarter-mile from where Caprio was struck, and charged as an adult with first-degree murder.
Three other suspects — all male teenagers — have also been arrested and will face murder charges.
At a Towson hearing Tuesday afternoon, Baltimore County District Court Judge Sally Chester denied bond for Harris, who police identified as the driver of the Jeep Wrangler.
Prosecutors told Judge Chester that Harris had stolen four cars since December and had been on house arrest for car theft about a week before Caprio’s death.
“In the last six months, no offense, but your client is a one-man crime wave,” Chester told Harris’s public defender.
The judge ordered Harris held at the Baltimore County Detention Center.
“I’m not certain any juvenile facility is secure enough to hold him,” Chester said.
Charging documents state that a witness called 911 to report seeing young males burglarizing a home. The witness heard Officer Caprio shouting and then saw her lying on the street.
“Harris admitted that he had been waiting in the driver’s seat of the Jeep Wrangler as other associates of his were in the process of committing a burglary,” the documents say.
Harris, the documents say, “admitted that he partially opened the driver’s door, but then shut it and drove at the officer.”
Police say Harris and the other three suspects had been linked to burglaries in the Perry Hall area.
Caprio died of head and chest trauma, police said.
Dakota Kurek, the man who witnessed the officer’s being run down outside his house on Linwen Way, said he heard what sounded like a single gunshot but could not tell if Caprio or a suspect had fired a shot.
The manhunt for the suspects in Caprio’s death led to a lockdown of about 2,000 students at Perry Hall schools until Monday evening. Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan told reporters the lockdown was necessary to protect the students as police searched for suspects they considered armed and dangerous.
Caprio’s murder heartbreaking
Officer Caprio’s death brought shock, outrage and an outpouring of grief and tributes.
Caprio, who lived in Fallston, had been widely praised for police work in solving a series of package thefts in December and January and was named officer of the month at the Parkville Baltimore County Police precinct for December.
Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all American and Maryland flags statewide be flown at half-staff in honor of Officer Caprio.
“We are heartbroken to lose a member of Maryland’s law enforcement family, Police Officer First Class Amy Caprio,” Hogan said in a statement. “She bravely made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and security of our citizens, and we all owe her a debt of gratitude for her selfless service.
“We continue to keep Officer Caprio’s family, loved ones, her brothers and sisters in blue, and the entire Baltimore County community in our prayers.”
Acting Baltimore County Executive County Fred Homan said in a statement, “It is a sad day in Baltimore County as we mourn the loss of a police officer who died in the line of duty. We share our sorrow with her family and her extended family, the women and men who put their lives on the line every day to keep our County safe.”
In Perry Hall, neighbors expressed shock and dismay, for the peace they cherished had been stolen away Monday afternoon.
Like other neighbors along Linwen Way – a tree-lined cul-de-sac where neighbors chat on their front porches and tend to their gardens and manicured lawns — the family that tried in vain to save Caprio’s life said they never thought violence would invade their neighborhood.
“I raised my family here, and in 20 years, nothing has ever happened,” Tony Kurek said. “We’ve never had a bike stolen out of this neighborhood.”
Kurek paused and looked to the street where the Jeep rammed Officer Caprio.
”I saw a picture of her today, and she looked so young, a girl so full of life, nothing like the officer I saw lying motionless in the street, her gun next to her,” Kurek said. “It just breaks my heart.”
Gary Gately, a seasoned journalist, has won 15 national, regional and local awards for reporting and writing news, investigative, public service, feature, business and travel pieces. Gately’s work has been published by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun (where he worked in reporting and editing jobs for 11 years), Baltimore Examiner, the Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Newsweek, Arrive Magazine, The Center for Public Integrity, CBSNews.com, CNBC.com, ABCNews.com, USAToday.com, HealthDay, The Crime Report, United Press International and numerous other newspapers, websites and magazines.
His coverage has received awards from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Society of American Travel Writers (first-place Lowell Thomas Award for best newspaper travel story/U.S.-Canada (immigrant New York).
Gately also has extensive experience editing for newspapers and websites, has taught college journalism courses in news writing, magazine writing and travel writing and is the author of Maryland: Anthem to Innovation, a book on the state’s history, industries and attractions.