Two Officers Indicted on Charges in Death of 20-Year-Old Karon Hylton-Brown
Defendants Made First Court Appearances Today
WASHINGTON – An indictment was unsealed today charging two members of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) with offenses stemming from the Oct. 23, 2020, police vehicular pursuit in Northwest Washington that caused the death of Karon Hylton-Brown.
Terence Sutton, 37, an officer, was indicted on a District of Columbia charge of second-degree murder and federal charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Andrew Zabavsky, 53, a lieutenant, was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and ensure the safety of the community. The vast majority of officers execute their duties in an exemplary manner, and we are grateful for their dedicated service,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips. “But when a select few violate their oath by engaging in criminal conduct, they cannot do so with impunity and must be held accountable. This indictment seeks to do just that.”
“As alleged in the indictment, these sworn law enforcement officers showed a careless disregard for Mr. Hylton-Brown’s life and then conspired to obstruct the investigation of their actions,” said Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “The FBI has an obligation to ensure that law enforcement officers do not abuse their positions of trust and authority to the detriment of the communities they serve.”
The indictment was returned by a grand jury yesterday and unsealed today. Sutton and Zabavsky made their first appearances this afternoon before the Honorable Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They were released under certain conditions set by the Court, with the next hearing set for Oct. 4, 2021.
According to the indictment, at the time of the police pursuit, Sutton was assigned to the Crime Suppression Team in MPD’s Fourth Police District. Zabavsky supervised the Fourth Police District’s Crime Suppression Team officers, including Sutton. The pursuit began at approximately 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, after officers observed Mr. Hylton-Brown, 20, driving a moped on a sidewalk in the Brightwood Park area of Northwest Washington. The pursuit continued on neighborhood streets for more than 10 blocks and into an alley off the 700 block of Kennedy Street NW. Immediately upon exiting the alley and entering Kennedy Street, Mr. Hylton-Brown was struck by an oncoming civilian vehicle. He suffered severe head trauma and died on Oct. 25, 2020.
The indictment alleges that Sutton caused Mr. Hylton-Brown’s death by driving a police vehicle in conscious disregard for an extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury to Mr. Hylton-Brown. It also alleges that Sutton and Zabavsky conspired and combined to hide from MPD officials the circumstances of the traffic crash leading to Mr. Hylton-Brown’s death.
The charge of second-degree murder carries a statutory maximum of 40 years in prison. The conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum of five years and the obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum of 20 years. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.