“Our investigation revealed that Mr. Dixon’s overview of events was inconsistent with the evidence and facts in the case,” said Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul. “Mr. Dixon had no lawful or justifiable reason to shoot and kill Mr. Williams and Mr. Johnson.”
Dixon is also charged with one count each of use of a handgun in the commission of a felony and reckless endangerment, according to court records. Dixon also has been charged with attempted second-degree murder in the assault of Michael Thomas, 36, who was the driver of a vehicle Dixon shot into, the court records state.
Within hours of Dixon’s arrest, Takoma Park police said they would be filing additional charges against him in a separate May 2020 incident, in which he is seen on video pointing a shotgun at a homeless woman in the lobby of his condo building. Takoma Park police said when they initially investigated, Dixon did not mention the shotgun. Police said they had been unaware a shotgun was involved. They said they became aware of the video on Friday, the same day it emerged on WJLA-TV.
Dixon was taken into custody Friday morning “without incident,” police said, and is currently jailed without bond. An attorney for him was not listed in online court records and relatives for Dixon declined to comment immediately when reached Friday. The police department’s union did not respond to requests for comment.
The incident involving Johnson and Williams began shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday when Takoma Park police officers were called to the Takoma Overlook condominiums on New Hampshire Avenue for a report of multiple shots fired in the parking lot, charging documents state.
Officers found Dixon, who lives in the building, on the scene. He identified himself as a Pentagon police officer and said he was leaving for work when he noticed a Lexus without headlights driving through the complex’s parking lot, according to charging documents.
Dixon told investigators he saw one of the men associated with the vehicle attempt to break the window of another vehicle in the parking lot, officials said. Dixon reported he confronted the men in the Lexus and one of them “gassed it,” nearly running him over, according to charging documents. Dixon then opened fire, hitting Johnson and Williams, police said.
The Lexus left the parking lot and Thomas drove to Prince George’s Hospital Center, where Johnson and Williams were pronounced dead, according to charging documents. Thomas was not injured and fled from the hospital, but was later interviewed.
During the investigation that followed, Takoma Park police determined a vehicle had been broken into at the complex, but authorities said other elements of Dixon’s story fell apart after detectives reviewed surveillance video that captured the incident.
The footage showed Dixon confronting the men at the Lexus, but he didn’t fire until the men were leaving the parking lot and he was standing behind the vehicle, according to charging documents. Dixon fired multiple shots, the documents said.
The charging documents said the Lexus “no longer presented an immediate threat that would have justified the use of deadly force.”
An autopsy found the men were struck in their back upper bodies by the bullets, consistent with the shots being fired from behind the vehicle, according to the charging documents.
DeVaul said at the Friday news conference that Dixon had no law enforcement powers in Maryland.
“He was a civilian who acted as a civilian, who happened to be a law enforcement officer in another jurisdiction,” DeVaul said.
He added later that citizens should report crimes in progress, but not intervene: “Call us and allow us to handle the situation.”
Takoma Park Police Detective Charles Earle said at the Friday news conference that the department is still investigating whether the victims had a gun in their car. Authorities have no plans to charge the surviving victim.
David E. Haynes, an attorney representing the Johnson family, said at a Friday news conference “that this is in no way a justified shooting” and his clients believe Dixon was acting as a police officer at the time of the incident.
“We do not accept the theory that he was only acting as a private citizen,” Haynes said. “Officers under their general orders and directives and training are never off duty.”
Haynes said he had no information the victims were attempting to break into a car at the time of the shooting and there was no indication that Johnson or any of the other victims were acting violently. He said the family would be conducting an independent investigation.
Family members said Johnson and Williams were best friends. They said Johnson was unmarried, but left behind three children, including one who was less than a year old. They remembered him as the life of the party and someone who was always there to help. One said James’s smile could “light up the darkest room.”
Efforts to reach Williams’s family members have been unsuccessful.
The acting director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, Daniel Walsh, released a statement on Friday expressing sadness at the “tragic incident.”
“Our hearts go out to the family members of the victims and the Takoma Park community as they try to cope with this tragedy,” said Walsh, who said the agency would continue to cooperate with local investigators.
Given “the seriousness of the situation and their responsibilities,” Pentagon police officers will be conducting a “stand-down” in which officers will be reminded of their off-duty responsibilities, the agency’s use of force policy and “jurisdictional considerations.”
Dixon has been on the force since July 2019, the Pentagon said. He will remain on administrative leave pending the results of an internal administrative investigation, Walsh said.
Jacqueline Yost, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, said on Friday that Dixon does not have any disciplinary issues in his records.
But Yost said the agency is “fully aware of two off-duty incidents with local law enforcement” that involved Dixon previously while he was a Pentagon police officer. In both instances, Yost said, the agency carried out an internal administrative investigation and cleared Dixon of agency misconduct. Takoma Park police also conducted investigations in the other incidents, and cleared Dixon of any criminal actions, Yost said. The agency didn’t provide details of the incidents.
But in an report from D.C. police relaying Dixon’s account from a July 28, 2020, incident, Dixon said he was in his car when a man with a hatchet came after him. Dixon said he pulled out his duty weapon in response before the man with the hatchet left, the report said.
Dixon served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2004, working as a combat crew communications specialist, according to an Air Force spokeswoman. He left the service as a senior airman, a relatively low-ranking enlisted rank.
Dixon also served in the Army Reserve from 2004 to 2008, reaching the rank of specialist while serving in military police, an Army spokesman said.
The shooting marks the second time in recent weeks that an off-duty Pentagon police officer has fired their weapon.
On March 24, an off-duty Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer shot and wounded a 16-year-old whom the officer said tried to rob him on Mississippi Avenue SE, in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast Washington, authorities say. According to D.C. police, the officer, who was not identified, told investigators that the youth pointed a gun at him. The officer tried to grab it but was unsuccessful and then pulled his own gun and fired at least one shot, according to his account.
On Friday, Johnson’s family was still trying to understand what happened.
“He treated everyone that crossed his path with love and respect, like they were family,” said Marcus Cornegay, a cousin. “We as a family are really struggling with this trying to put logic around why he was taken from us.”
Alice Crites, Julie Tate, Katie Mettler, Peter Hermann and Emily Davies contributed to this report.