Parolee, pal held in Md. state trooper's killing

By Matt Zapotosky and Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 15, 2010; B01

A parolee with a long history of drug convictions was charged Monday with fatally shooting a Maryland state trooper outside a Forestville Applebee's simply because the trooper had thrown him out of the restaurant a half-hour earlier, authorities and law enforcement sources said.

Cyril Cornelius Williams, 27, of Seat Pleasant was charged with first-degree murder in Friday's fatal shooting of Trooper Wesley Brown, 24. Williams was so enraged after Brown ejected him from the restaurant that he sought out a friend, returned and opened fire on an unsuspecting Brown as he stood outside talking on his cellphone, several law enforcement officials said.

The friend, Anthony A. Milton II, 28, also was charged with first-degree murder. The law enforcement sources said Milton handed Williams the semiautomatic gun used in the shooting.

Their only motive, police said, was the dispute at Applebee's.

"Nothing more, nothing less," said Kevin Davis, deputy Prince George's County police chief.

The brazenness of the shooting of a state trooper, youth mentor and active member of the Seat Pleasant community sparked a massive effort to find the killer. County homicide detectives, who led the investigation, teamed with the Maryland State Police, D.C. police, FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and even parole and probation officials. Surveillance footage was quickly released to the media, and hundreds of tips were followed.

Williams's arrest over the weekend and Milton's on Monday brought relief to the law enforcement community, which was stunned that someone would ambush a police officer over such a minor dispute. Brown wasn't in uniform, but he was wearing his badge around his neck and was steps from his marked cruiser when he was killed.

"This is a bittersweet moment for all of us," said Terrence B. Sheridan, the state police superintendent, "in that a young trooper was cut down way before his time."

The altercation

Brown was working off-duty as a security guard at the Applebee's on Donnell Drive when he escorted out a man in a blue shirt who had been acting belligerently, police said. Law enforcement sources said the man was urinating inside the restaurant and possibly had a dispute over a bill.

Police said the man in the blue shirt, whose picture was released to news outlets, was Williams. Police also identified Milton as a suspect, and he "admitted being on the scene and participating in the murder of Trooper Brown," according to police charging documents. The documents do not say who pulled the trigger. Law enforcement sources said it was Williams. Milton's main role, the sources said, was providing the gun.

Williams fired six times, sources said, and two of the bullets struck the trooper. One hit him in the ankle; the other made its way past his bulletproof vest and pierced his heart, the sources said. Brown never had a chance to draw his gun.

No one answered the doors at the homes of Williams and Milton on Monday. Police said they have recovered the semiautomatic handgun used in the killing, connecting it to the slaying through ballistics testing. They would not say how they found it. A law enforcement source said police served several search warrants in connection with the case and have seized large amounts of drugs and money.

Criminal records

Both Williams and Milton, also of Seat Pleasant, have criminal pasts. Court records show that Williams was on parole at the time of the shooting, and police said he was held over the weekend on a violation of his parole. A spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said Williams was paroled on July 23, 2008, related to drug charges in Prince George's.

Until December, Williams had been supervised under Maryland's Violence Prevention Initiative, a program Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) established to create a zero-tolerance policy for criminals considered most likely to commit further violent crimes. Under that program, warrants are often issued if those on probation or parole miss just one scheduled meeting with a case manager.

Late last year, however, Williams was ratcheted down to a level called intensive supervision. Instead of three face-to-face meetings a week, and mandatory phone interviews, Williams was required only to check in twice a month.

In the first 10 months after his release, he made dozens of required meetings, stayed employed and passed drug tests, and his supervision was lessened by one notch. He continued to impress his agent and other reviewers in the parole and probation department, including maintaining the same job for a heating and air conditioning company, and left VPI late last year.

In March, Williams missed one of his two monthly meetings with his agent, but under his new, lower level of supervision, that was no longer a violation for which the state would typically seek a warrant. When he was found and questioned over the weekend, Williams was initially booked for missing the March meeting and for some traffic violations.

Court records show numerous drug arrests and convictions from 2003 to 2006, and police have seized tens of thousands of dollars in drugs and money from his home.

In 2006, Williams also was charged with attempted murder for apparently firing a gun at a police officer on New Year's Day. A witness who knew Williams identified him as the attacker from a photo array, but on the day the case was to go to trial, the state dropped the charges when its witness did not appear in court, according to prosecutors and Douglas J. Wood, Williams's attorney in the case.

"A lot of times in these Jan. 1 shootings, guys are outside firing into the air, carousing," Wood said, adding that there was no evidence that the officer could identify Williams.

Milton's most serious conviction was in August 2004, when a circuit court judge in Prince George's sentenced him to four days in jail and supervised probation after he pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and a handgun violation.

According to a police charging document, Milton was with his girlfriend in the bedroom of their Seat Pleasant apartment when he accidentally shot her in the leg with a handgun. The girlfriend said the March 24, 2004, incident was an accident, according to the charging document.

Staff writers Aaron C. Davis, Maria Glod and Rick Rojas and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company