About two dozen supporters of the man fatally shot by an off-duty Arlington County sheriff’s deputy last week gathered in front of the Alexandria courthouse Tuesday to press for charges to be filed in the case.
As prosecutors and police met in the building just feet away to discuss the investigation, friends of 22-year-old Julian Dawkins milled about on King Street, carrying hand-drawn posters and wearing homemade T-shirts to commemorate the young man’s life. Chief among their concerns, they said, is that the deputy who police say shot Dawkins — 44-year-old Craig Patterson — has not been charged in the May 22 incident.
“That man at home getting a check with our tax money,” said 29-year-old Joy Brandon, a friend of Dawkins’s who on Tuesday invited other supporters to sign a neon-green poster she made in his memory. “It’s not right.”
Efforts to reach Patterson, who has been placed on paid leave from his sheriff’s office job, have been unsuccessful.
Pressure has been mounting on police and prosecutors to provide answers in the case since Dawkins — a shuttle driver for “PBS NewsHour” with deep roots in Alexandria — was killed last week. Police have said only that Dawkins was fatally shot by Patterson in the 100 block of Lynhaven Drive and that the medical examiner had ruled the case a homicide — a technical term that means Dawkins was killed by another person.
Although the Tuesday gathering on King Street was modest in size, it seemed to draw notice. LaDonna Sanders, president of the Alexandria branch of the NAACP, came to “monitor the situation,” though she said her group had not launched its own investigation or taken a position on the incident. Several TV crews taped and interviewed demonstrators.
Ashley Hildebrandt, an Alexandria police spokeswoman, said Tuesday that she could not comment on the protesters’ concerns, citing the ongoing investigation. Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said he noticed the group as he met with detectives about the case, and he encouraged those among them who might have information to come forward.
“That’s what we’re hoping will happen in the near future, that the police will be able to speak with these folks and put some more pieces to the puzzle together,” Sengel said. “I know there are more folks out there who saw part of what happened, who heard part of what happened, or who have information about what happened prior to this incident occurring, and all of it is critical.”
Little is known publicly about what precipitated the encounter between Dawkins and Patterson. Family members have said that on the night of the shooting, Dawkins was on Lynhaven Drive at a family gathering to celebrate his cousin’s making the Washington Mystics roster. A witness said that she later heard Dawkins arguing with a man who yelled, “I’ll be back. You best believe I’ll be back,” as he ran down Lynhaven Drive.
Some minutes after, the witness said, she heard a gunshot and saw Dawkins facedown in another yard, with the man standing near him.
A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said that Patterson told police Dawkins threatened him with a knife, and that a knife was recovered on the scene. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal candid details of the probe.
The witness said she ran to Dawkins after the incident and did not see a knife. Kim Bragg, who identified herself as Dawkins’s aunt, said she was on the phone with her nephew when he was shot and he seemed to simply go silent before the sound of gunfire.
Sengel said that he understood the frustration of those who wanted Patterson to be arrested and charged with a crime but that it was not his custom to do that “without sufficient evidence to support a prosecution.” He said it was not unusual for “a delay of even days or weeks or months” between police identifying and then charging a suspect.
“In any case where you have a situation where it’s unclear what precipitated a shooting, that’s something that needs to be established, whether it’s self-defense or any other case,” he said.