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Trial Begins for Montgomery Officer in Wheaton Shooting

A 23-year-old District man told a jury yesterday that a Montgomery County police officer shot him four times in the neck and head last February in a confrontation over a girlfriend.

The testimony in Montgomery County Circuit Court came from Willie Lee Jackson, whom a neurosurgeon testified suffered extensive brain damage in the shooting.

The defendant, Darryl S. Austin, who has been suspended from the police force, is being tried on a charge of attempted murder and a felony weapon offense. Austin’s attorney, Barry Helfand, said in his opening statement yesterday that Jackson provoked the shooting by trying to humiliate Austin about his failing relationship with the woman, Khavah Carter, 18.

Jackson, who testified that he was “stupid in love” with Carter, said he met Austin about 9:45 p.m. Feb. 27 in the stairwell of a Wheaton apartment building where Carter lived. Austin, dressed in his tan police uniform, demanded that Carter choose one of the two suitors, Jackson testified.

“Who do you love?” Jackson testified Austin shouted at Carter. Jackson said Austin choked Carter and threatened to kill her, then left.

Then, Jackson testified, as he hugged Carter, he “felt something hot” and heard gunfire. He said that as he was lying wounded on the floor, Jackson shot him at point-blank range, saying repeatedly, “You are going to die . . . . “

Helfand said that shortly before the shooting, Jackson sent a letter to Austin, telling the officer he was being “used” by Carter. Helfand said the 29-year-old police officer, who had known Carter for several years and had an “obsession” about her, was “absolutely crushed. He did explode.”

The prosecutor, Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Dean, said in his opening statement to the jury that Austin “cooly and calmly” shot Jackson in a premeditated attempt to kill him.

Dean said Austin, accompanied by a rookie officer, left his beat in Silver Spring to visit his girlfriend’s apartment on Layhill Road. While there, Dean said, Austin called Jackson on his electronic paging device.

As the rookie officer, Brian Holloway, waited in the cruiser, Austin argued with Jackson and Carter, and then shot Jackson, Dean said.

After the shooting, Dean told the jury, Austin asked Holloway for four new bullets to reload his .38-caliber revolver and discarded the spent shells, then called in a phony traffic stop and pressured the rookie not to tell authorities what had happened. Later that night, Dean said, Austin tried to wash the gunpowder off his revolver in a 7-Eleven store bathroom.

Dean said Austin, who refused to respond to repeated radio calls after the shooting, was arrested after a supervisor saw his car at the convenience store.

John Lord, a neurosurgeron at Suburban Hospital, testified that Jackson barely survived the shooting. Lord said Jackson suffers from convulsive seizures and other medical complications resulting from his injuries.

Client Reviews
"I have watched Mr. Helfand in trial and in negotiations. He is remarkable. Mr. Helfand is extremely knowledgeable in the law, and even more knowledgeable in the ways to deal with people." Afshin Pishevar, Criminal Defense Attorney in Rockville, MD
"I strongly endorse this lawyer. I have known Mr. Helfand for many years. We have worked together on cases and represented conflicting parties. I have watched Mr. Helfand in trial and in negotiations. He is remarkable." David Felsen, Criminal Defense Attorney in Rockville, MD
"It’s one of the biggest cases that’s been tried in Montgomery County in a long time,” said Steve VanGrack, a Rockville lawyer considering a Democratic bid for state’s attorney." Washington Post