Prince George's homicide suspect had an unserved warrant for an earlier charge

By Matt Zapotosky
Saturday, January 29, 2011; 10:33 PM

A teenager accused of killing a man during a domestic dispute in Forestville this month was charged with attempted murder in 2009, but Prince George's County sheriff's deputies did not serve that arrest warrant until after the recent slaying, according to law enforcement officials and court records.

Donte D. Douglass of Capitol Heights had been wanted since October 2009 in the shooting of a man with whom he had an ongoing dispute. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Oct. 21, 2009, but it went unserved until Jan. 11 - the day Douglass, 18, was charged with murder in the recent slaying.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, which is responsible for serving warrants, said deputies went to Douglass's home on Elfin Avenue twice in December 2010 - more than a year after the warrant was issued - but Douglass was not home.

The spokeswoman, Sharon Taylor, said there were no records to indicate that deputies had tried to serve the warrant earlier, and she could not explain why. Maj. Andrew Ellis, the public affairs commander for Prince George's police, said District III investigators tried to find Douglass in the days after the 2009 shooting but relied on sheriff's deputies to make the arrest.

The sheriff's office did not enter the warrant into its system until Jan. 3, 2010 - after Douglass had been indicted in Circuit Court, according to court records and Taylor.

Taylor said she could not explain why there was a delay in entering it. Prince George's Sheriff Melvin C. High, who was elected in November, is reviewing an "unacceptable" backlog of 53,000 warrants and developing processes to make sure they are served, Taylor said. About half of those are for traffic violations.

"What I can tell you about the process under this administration is felony warrants are at the top of our priority," Taylor said.

The recent slaying occurred Jan. 8. Douglass was charged in the fatal shooting of Corteza Warren Livingston outside a townhouse in the 3100 block of Dynasty Drive. Police said Douglass went to the home with a woman to drop off the woman's child with Livingston's brother - the child's father. There was a fight, and Douglass shot and killed Livingston, 21, and wounded the brother, police have said.

According to police charging documents, Douglass also opened fire on a man who was walking past his house on Oct. 21, 2009.

The man, who was seriously injured, told police that he and Douglass had an "ongoing dispute," according to the documents.

Wanda Douglass, 45, Douglass's mother, said she did not know her son was wanted in the 2009 incident, which she characterized as self-defense. She said that an acquaintance of her son's tried to break into her home and that Donte Douglass ended up wrestling with him in the front yard.

"My son took the gun from him, and that's when my son shot at him," Wanda Douglass said. She said she figured police thought it was self-defense, because they never came to her house to charge him. She said her son was living at the home with his girlfriend and 10-month-old son.

The sheriff's office recorded a similar incident in August, when a Seat Pleasant man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend was charged two weeks earlier with threatening her with a handgun, but deputies never tried to arrest him on the warrant.

Taylor said the sheriff's office has 10 deputies serving warrants, and officials plan to increase that to 17 in coming weeks. The sheriff's office is authorized to have 248 deputies, but about 40 positions are unfilled, Taylor said.

Taylor declined to say whether the sheriff's office had enough deputies to clear the backlog, explaining that the sheriff had not yet completed his review. She also said it was not certain that serving a warrant would have saved a life.

"You might fairly speculate that if [a suspect] were in jail, he might not be able to commit the murder," she said. "We might also easily speculate that had he been arrested, he might be out on bond."

Livingston's family declined to comment.

Staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company