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Press Release

District Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison For Killing His Childhood Friend

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia
Defendant Had Fired an Assault Weapon at Police During Investigation

            WASHINGTON – Jean Paul Kearney, 36, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced to 20 years in prison for second degree murder while armed, and other charges, in connection with the April 4, 2021, shooting death of Dontra Harris. Superior Court Judge Maribeth Raffinan handed down the sentence on July 18, 2023, and also ordered five years of supervised release.

            Kearney was convicted by a jury of assault on a police officer while armed, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, obstruction of justice, unlawful possession of a firearm (prior conviction), and possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device); he pleaded guilty on April 27, 2023 to second degree murder while armed..

            According to the Government’s evidence, on April 4, 2021 shortly before 9 p.m., Kearney tailed his childhood friend, Dontra Harris, on a motorcycle. They both pulled over by the side of the road and verbally argued and then went their separate ways. Kearney, who lived nearby, went back home to switch out his motorcycle for his mother’s vehicle. He then drove to the victim’s apartment building and waited for 15 minutes for the victim to return home. When  the victim attempted to enter his building, Kearney ambushed him, and shot him several times in the back. When law enforcement and paramedics arrived on scene, they located the victim near the front of the building and pronounced him dead. On May 13, 2021, when the Gun Recovery Unit executed a residential search warrant in connection with the homicide investigation, Kearney fired multiple times at the officers with an AK-47 assault rifle. Several days later, upon learning that the police had collected his cellphone during the warrant execution, Kearney provided his family member with instructions over the phone on how to remotely erase the contents of his phone.

            Officers with the Metropolitan Police Department arrested Kearney on May 13, 2021. He has been in custody since.

            In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves and Acting Chief Pamela Smith, of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), commended the work of the MPD officers and detective who investigated the case. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Stephanie Gilbert and Debra Forte, Investigative Analyst Zachary McMenamin; Supervisory Victim/Witness Advocate Jennifer Clark; Victim/Witness Advocates Karina Hernandez and Paola Molina, Supervisory Victim Witness Service Coordinator Katina Adams-Washington; and Supervisory Litigation Technology Specialist Leif Hickling, and Litigation Technology Specialist William Henderson

            Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sitara Witanachchi and Erin DeRiso, who investigated and prosecuted the case.

Updated July 21, 2023

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 23-405