The 27-year-old accused of fatally shooting his stepfather, a D.C. police officer, in an unprovoked and surprise attack outside their Upper Marlboro home was ordered held without bond Wednesday.
Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and standing with his arms at his side, Antwan James said little during a brief hearing in Prince George’s County District Court — answering only “Good” and “Yeah, I can hear you,” to questions from Judge Joseph L. Wright. His attorney, Thomas C. Mooney, asked Wright for a bond “in the neighborhood” of $250,000, arguing James has “significant community ties.”
Wright rejected the defense request, saying he was concerned about public safety should James be released. The judge said he was especially troubled to hear that investigators had recovered between 15 and 18 shell casings at the spot where James is accused of shooting his stepfather.
“It sounds disturbing,” Wright said.
The outcome was no surprise given the allegations James faces. Police say James shot his stepfather, Joseph Newell Jr., in the back — then stood over him and fired more shots — because Newell had asked the man for help with yard work Monday evening. Newell, 46, a well-liked D.C. police detective with more than 20 years on the force, did not argue with his son about the work, and he was standing on a step ladder, screwing in a light bulb on the garage, when James attacked him, authorities have said.
“It was a complete shooting by ambush,” prosecutor Wesley Adams said at Wednesday’s hearing. “There was no fight. The only triggering event was that he was asked to do yard work.”
James is charged with first-degree murder.
Mooney argued that while the allegations are serious, Wright should weigh them against James’s local ties. He noted that James, who spent two years in college in Alabama and most recently worked as a D.C. firefighter, turned himself in. Four women — among them an aunt and cousins, Mooney said — stood along the courtroom’s side rail in support of James.
Mooney said after the hearing that he had advised them not to comment. He said he had not yet spoken to James and still needed to gather the facts of the case.
“I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to this story,” he said. “I just need to get a grasp on the facts and determine how to defend him.”
James ran after the incident but turned himself in at police headquarters Tuesday evening, authorities said. Adams said Wednesday that investigators have not recovered the gun — which was not Newell’s service weapon — used in the crime.
Adams said investigators did, however, recover the shell casings on the scene. Police have previously said that surveillance cameras caught the killing on tape.
At that time of the shooting, James had an outstanding warrant for violating his probation in a 2011, second-degree assault case. His lawyer in that case declined to comment.
On Wednesday, the home on Green Moss Drive where James lived with his mother, stepfather and siblings remained cordoned off with yellow police tape. James’s mother, who was married to Newell, has not responded to Facebook and e-mail messages seeking comment, and a phone number listed to her says it is not receiving calls.