Montgomery County police officer Darryl S. Austin was convicted of attempted second-degree murder yesterday in the Feb. 27 shooting of a District man while Austin was on duty and accompanied by a police officer trainee.
Austin, a four-year member of the force, also was found guilty by a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury of using a handgun in the commission of a violent crime.
The jury deliberated about 5 1/2 hours over two days. Austin, who was suspended from the force after the shooting, showed no emotion when the verdicts were announced.
Judge William C. Miller immediately revoked Austin's $10,000 bail and ordered that he be held without bond in the county jail until his Jan. 9 sentencing.
Attempted second-degree murder carries a maximum prison term of 30 years, and the handgun violation carries a mandatory five-year sentence. Defense attorney Barry Helfand, who pleaded in his closing arguments Thursday for a hung jury on the most serious charges, said he hopes Miller will view the case as an "emotional crime and . . . not give the defendant the maximum sentence."
Austin's four-day trial was closely watched by the 890-member county police force. In closing arguments Thursday, Assistant State's Attorney Robert Dean said "this event brings shame on a proud police department. This proud police department that suddenly must take into custody and disarm one of its own."
The trial also told the tragic tale of a love triangle.
"This case has to do with deceit and a young 29-year-old man," Helfand said in his closing argument. "There is no emotion stronger than love."
Helfand said the shooting was provoked by the victim's goading of Austin about his crumbling relationship with Khavah Carter, 19. Helfand said Austin was obsessed with Carter, whom he planned to marry in 1992.
But Dean said in his closing argument Austin fired four shots at the victim, Willie Lee Jackson, 22, after the two men argued about Carter in a stairwell of a Wheaton apartment building. Two of the bullets struck Jackson in the head, critically wounding him and causing extensive brain damage, Dean said.
Dean said the shooting was deliberate and premediated. "There can only be one intent when a trigger is aimed at someone's head." The prosecutor said Austin tried to cover up the shooting afterwards by cleaning his .38-caliber revolver and asking his rookie partner to lie about the incident.
On Thursday, Carter, who testified that she had known Austin for about five years, said Austin was upset about a letter he had received from Jackson detailing her romantic involvement with Jackson.
Carter said Austin arrived about 9:30 p.m. at her apartment in the Winexburg Manor complex. Austin, who was training rookie police officer Brian Holloway, left his assigned Silver Spring beat to visit Carter.
Carter testified that either she or Austin called Jackson on his electronic paging device to ask him to come to the apartment. Carter said she was hugging Jackson when Austin began shooting. "Everything happened really fast," she said. "It sounded like it wasn't going to stop. It was just on and on."
Holloway, who witnessed the shooting while waiting in the police cruiser, told the jury Wednesday that Austin asked him to help dispose of the victim and to fabricate an alibi. Holloway also testified that Austin reloaded his revolver with four new rounds and picked up spent shells at the scene of the shooting.