After court proceedings spanning several weeks, a jury found Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Officer Terence Sutton and Lt. Andrew Zabavsky guilty in the murder of Karon Hylton-Brown.
Sutton, 38, was found guilty of second-degree murder, conspiracy to obstruct and obstruction of justice. Zabavsky, 54, was found guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Those present in the courtroom Wednesday said Sutton and Zabavsky’s convictions elicited positive reactions.
Amid the pandemonium, U.S. Marshals arrested Karen Hylton, Hylton-Brown’s mother. She’s currently being detained in Virginia. The U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia didn’t respond to an inquiry about Hylton’s charges
The convictions came two years after Sutton and Zabsavsky engaged Hylton-Brown, who was driving a moped, in a vehicular pursuit throughout the Brightwood neighborhood of Northwest. Both men, driving separate vehicles, chased Hylton-Brown for several minutes before he crashed his moped into a van near the corner of 7th Street and Kennedy Street.
Days later, Hylton-Brown, 20, died in a hospital. He was the father of an infant.
The October 2020 incident sparked weeks of protest in front of MPD 4th District headquarters on Georgia Avenue in Northwest. During those protests, officers shot protesters with rubber bullets and sprayed their faces with pepper spray. D.C. Councilmembers Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and Janeese Lewis George, then the Democratic nominee for the Ward 4 D.C. Council seat, counted among those who supported protesters and family members on the front lines.
During that battle, more information about Hylton-Brown’s death surfaced. An indictment issued last year said Sutton and Zabavsky violated MPD’s “No Chase” policy.
The indictment also stated that Sutton and Zabavsky provided inaccurate information to their MPD superiors about the vehicular pursuit. Their report said they chased Hylton-Brown because he didn’t have a helmet. Months later, officers who wrote letters in support of both men said the chase had been initiated because of suspicions about Hylton-Brown’s possession of drugs or a weapon.
Those present in the courtroom on Wednesday said Sutton and Zabavsky’s conviction elicited positive reactions. Amid all the pandemonium, U.S. Marshals removed Karen Hylton, Hylton-Brown’s mother, from the courtroom.
A U.S. Marshals spokesperson didn’t confirm whether Hylton is currently in police custody.
Makia Green, a local organizer who’s stood on the frontlines during the protests around Hylton-Brown’s death, called this moment bittersweet. She cited Hylton-Brown’s death and the removal of his mother from the courtroom as the primary reasons.
Green still heralded the conviction as a victory in a city where police officers rarely answer to the law for their involvement in civilian deaths.
“We saw the recording. We saw what happened and know this officer had a history of harassing Karon and other Black men in that neighborhood,” said Green, co-founder of Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a Black-led defense hub dedicated to the abolishment of modern-day policing.
“During the uprising, I was shot with rubber bullets and we were brutalized for asking for justice and demanding that Officer Sutton be held accountable,” Green added. “This has been a long fight, two years in the making. Karon’s mother, his family, his daughter, and the activists and organizations have been a part of this fight. We haven’t given up.”