A former cop turned NASA executive has been found guilty of murder after killing his next door neighbor after years of fighting over loud music, garbage, and dog poop.
Michael Hetle, 54, shot Maryland National Guardsman Javon Prather, 24, in Springfield, Virginia – a suburb of Washington DC, in March 2020.
He then pointed the gun at Prather’s wife as she rushed to save him and shouted: ‘You want it to?
A jury deliberated in a Fairfax County court room from 10 am to 4:30 pm on Thursday to find him guilty of first-degree murder.
Hetle could face up to life in prison when he is sentenced on January 28.
He tried to argue that he fired the shots in self-defense to protect his family claiming that Prather threated him for months before the the deadly encounter.
But the jury did not believe Hetle’s defense after video footage of the violent attack was shown as evidence.
Michael Hetle, 54, was found guilty of first-degree murder for fatally shooting his neighbor Javon Prather, 24
Hetle’s Ring camera recorded the deadly shooting that occurred in a Virginia neighborhood (Pictured: Prather is seen knocking on Hetle’s front door following an earlier argument)
Hetle and Prather fueded for three years before things turned deadly on March 4, 2020 (Pictured: Hetle fired seven shots in six seconds killing Prather)
Hetle claimed that Prather was killed in self-defense but the jury did not agree (Pictured: Hetle pointed his gun and threatened Prather’s wife Janelle when she tried to check on her husband)
Fairfax County prosecutor Joe Martin shared in court that Hetle sent an email to the neighborhood association warning that his feud with Prather could ‘result in tragedy.’
On March 4, 2020, Hetle fired seven shots in six seconds, murdering his neighbor with whom he shares a wall as nearby residents and the victim’s wife watched in shock.
Prosecutors said that Hetle was upset that the homeowners association and police had not done more to act on his complaints about Prather.
Video footage recorded on Hetle’s Ring doorbell camera captured the deadly encounter.
Prather is seen knocking on Hetle’s front door. Hetle claimed that Prather knocked on the door so violently that the door was forced open.
‘It was this look of pure rage,’ Hetle said in court when describing Prather’s face before he opened fire. ‘His eyes were wide and bloodshot.’
The former police officer is then seen coming outside and firing seven shots without saying a word.
Hetle is recorded firing four shots at point-blank range, two shots in Prather’s back as he runs away and falls down the front steps, and then the final shot as Prather lays in Hetle’s driveway.
Prather’s wife Janelle is then seen rushing over to her husband as Hetle aims his gun at her threatening: ‘You want it to?’
As she yells about calling the police as she tries to get to her husband’s body he continues shouting: ‘You get the f**k out of here,’ ‘Get out,’ ‘Get away.’
Prather (pictured) was a National Guardsman. Hetle was a NASA executive and former cop
Hetle sent an email to his neighborhood association warning that his feud with Prather could ‘result in tragedy’ on the day of the deadly incident
Hetle and Prather lived next door to each other in Springfield, Virginia sharing a wall
Prather’s wife eventually ignores the threats and works up the courage to drag her husband’s body into their yard.
One of Prather’s relatives was overcome with emotion when the disturbing clip was played in court and began sobbing uncontrollably.
Fairfax County prosecutor Lyle Burnham referred to the shooting as an execution during his closing statement.
He said: ‘He didn’t want Javon hurt. He didn’t want Javon to leave. He wanted Javon dead.’
The neighbors feud began in 2017 when Hetle claims that Prather used his hose after he had denied him permission to use it to clean his car.
Things escalated over the next three years with Hetle even filing a restraining order against Prather’s wife after she allegedly threw items at his house and car.
Hetle complained to police about his neighbors several times. In other video evidence shown in court, Prather is seen yelling from his porch as police officers walk out of Hetle’s home.
Prather’s wife insist that the conflict between Hetle, a white man, and Prather, a bi-racial man, was racially motivated as testimony revealed that Hetle often referred to his neighbor using a racial slur.
Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano agreed that he believes race played a role in the shooting.
‘Mr. Prather served in the Maryland National Guard and had a bright future ahead of him,’ Descano said. ‘He should be with his family and community today.’
At the time of the shooting, Hetle worked as an executive officer to the associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
He previously worked for the Bellevue Police Department, until his resignation in 2003, and had been involved in two fatal in-the-line-of-duty shootings.
In 2001, he shot dead an unarmed Latino man during a domestic violence call, and in 2000 he shot and killed an armed bank robbery suspect, the Washington Post reported.
Hetle was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in both cases, but the family of the unarmed Latino man filed a civil suit against him and the city. The family later settled the suit for $75,000.