Brooklyn Man Convicted of Attempted Murder and Assault of A Federal Officer
Defendant Shot and Wounded an FBI Special Agent Who Was Conducting Surveillance in Canarsie
A federal jury in Brooklyn returned a guilty verdict today against Ronell Watson for attempted murder of a federal officer, assault of a federal officer and possessing and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence in connection with the shooting of Christopher Harper, a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). On December 8, 2018, Harper was on duty and performing his official duties when he was shot and wounded by the defendant. The verdict followed a two-week trial before United States District Judge William F. Kuntz II. When sentenced, Watson faces up to life in prison.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, New York Field Office, announced the verdict.
“As found by the jury, FBI Special Agent Harper was performing his official duties last December when the defendant attempted to execute him without any warning,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “Despite sustaining life threatening injuries, Special Agent Harper performed courageously, returning fire and wounding the defendant, actions that led to Watson’s capture soon thereafter. I would like to thank the jury for carefully weighing the evidence. With today’s verdict, Watson has been held responsible for his nearly taking the life of a brave agent.” Mr. Donoghue also expressed his grateful appreciation to the New York City Police Department for its assistance during the investigation and the medical staff at Kings County Hospital for saving Special Agent Harper’s life.
“Special Agent Harper was doing his job, conducting surveillance for an FBI investigation, when he was randomly attacked and shot by a man who wasn’t even the target of the surveillance,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “As law enforcement, we face dangerous situations every day, but we continue to do all we can to keep the community safe and stop criminals. Today, a jury of the citizens we protect saw the evidence and judged Ronell Watson attempted to murder an FBI agent.”
The evidence at trial established that on December 8, 2018, Special Agent Harper was on-duty, sitting in an unmarked Nissan Maxima on Canarsie Road, a one-way street, conducting a surveillance in an unrelated case. At approximately 3:20 p.m., Watson, driving a BMW sedan in the wrong direction, approached the agent’s vehicle. Watson partially blocked the agent’s vehicle, exited the BMW and approached the agent’s driver’s side door with his hand inside the pocket of his sweatshirt. Harper testified at trial that he was speaking to his wife on FaceTime at the time and told her “somebody shady is walking up to my car.” Harper placed the phone on the center console, but did not hang up. As Harper tried to maneuver his vehicle around the BMW to escape, Watson pulled a handgun out of his pocket and fired multiple shots at Harper, wounding him in the back. Agent Harper then drove to the corner and stopped, exited his vehicle and returned fire at Watson, wounding him in the hand. Harper testified: “I immediately got back in the -- back into my car, the Maxima and I had to tell my wife, you know, that I was shot. So I just yelled it out, ‘Jess, I’m shot, I’m shot.’ I told her to call 911. I didn't tell her where I was exactly but I said call 911.” The entire incident was recorded on three separate surveillance cameras located on Canarsie Road.
Watson drove the BMW to a nearby auto body shop, then had a friend drive him in another vehicle to the hospital where he was ultimately arrested. During the trial, the jury viewed Harper’s Nissan Maxima in the courthouse garage in order to better understand an FBI forensic examiner’s testimony about the path of the bullets fired into the vehicle by the defendant and assess the damage to the metal surfaces.
Special Agent Harper underwent multiple surgeries to have the bullet removed from his lung and continued his service as a Special Agent of the FBI.
United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue and Assistant United States Attorney Francisco J. Navarro are in charge of the prosecution.
Canarsie, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CR-4 (WFK)