Ex-wife: Arlington deputy sobbed after shooting of young ‘NewsHour’ driver


Julian Dawkins, 22, center, was killed by an Arlington County sheriff's deputy. (Courtesy of Curtis Dawkins)

The off-duty Arlington County sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a driver for “PBS NewsHour” after a confrontation in Alexandria in May was so distraught by what happened that he collapsed, sobbing, into the arms of a minister on the afternoon of the incident, his ex-wife testified Tuesday.

Najah Patterson said she had never before seen Craig Patterson, 44, so upset, even at his father’s funeral. She said he came to her Fredericksburg home after Julian Dawkins, 22, was killed.

“He had tears streaming down his face,” she testified.

Najah Patterson’s testimony Tuesday in Alexandria Circuit Court was part of an effort by Craig Patterson’s defense attorneys to paint the deputy as a sympathetic figure and to convince a judge that he deserved to be released on bond as he fights a murder charge. They questioned prosecutors’ account of the May 22 encounter between Patterson and Dawkins, disputing in particular that the deputy got a gun from home after arguing and parting ways with Dawkins.

In the end, though, Judge William Hamblen, appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to hear the case, ordered Patterson to remain in jail without bond.


Craig Patterson, charged with murder in the slaying of Julian Dawkins. (Alexandria County Police Department)

The result was not unpredictable, given the serious allegations Patterson faces. Prosecutors have said previously that after he and Dawkins argued, he came back — this time with his gun, handcuffs and a badge. Patterson shot Dawkins in the chest, saying later that the 22-year-old had come at him with a knife, prosecutors have said. They said that could not be true, though, because the knife was folded and clipped in Dawkins’s pocket.

“What happened here approaches a deliberate, willful murder, followed by an attempt to manufacture a justification for it,” Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said in court.

Joe King, one of Patterson’s attorneys, said a witness may have seen Dawkins and Patterson part ways after a confrontation, but said it was “just as probable, and I would suggest likely . . . that he had a sidearm with him at all times.” He asked a judge to set bond at $50,000, noting that his client had called 911 to report the shooting.

King and another attorney sought to portray Patterson as a decorated law enforcement officer with an even-keeled temperament and deep roots in Alexandria. They called Najah Patterson to testify about how she is “really good friends” with her ex-husband, who regularly visited their three teenage children. Najah Patterson testified that Craig Patterson even served as a sort of second father to her three other children, who called the deputy, “Dad Craig.”

“He is one of the best fathers that I know,” she testified.

King said Patterson had most recently been living with a nephew around the corner from the Lynhaven Drive shooting scene. He said that Patterson — who graduated from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria and had a degree in business administration from Strayer Universityhad been recognized 28 times for work with the sheriff’s office and that he served as a church deacon.

More than a dozen Arlington County sheriff’s employees packed a rear corner of the courtroom to support Patterson, sitting just a few rows from Dawkins’s family and friends. Patterson, who was placed on unpaid administrative leave after he was charged, rocked back and forth in his chair throughout the proceedings.

Family members of Dawkins, who also graduated from T.C. Williams and had hoped to start a car-detailing business, had little to say after the hearing. His mother, Gwen Pratt Miller, said simply, “It is what it is.” His father, Curtis Dawkins, said family members were “still numb.”

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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