2021 | Courts

UPDATED: Pentagon officer held without bond on charges of killing two men

Attorney for one victim’s family says they plan to sue

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Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy addresses reporters on Monday.

Photo by Dan Schere

This story was updated at 8:55 p.m. on April 12, 2021, to include comments from the Pentagon and an attorney for Williams’ family

A Montgomery County District Court judge on Monday ordered that an off-duty Pentagon officer be held without bond on charges of killing two men in Takoma Park last week.

David Hall Dixon, 40, of Takoma Park, is accused of fatally shooting 32-year-old Dominique Williams, of Hyattsville, and 38-year-old James Lionel Johnson, of District Heights, on April 7 in the parking lot of Takoma Overlook Condominiums at 7333 New Hampshire Ave.

Takoma Park police said that Dixon told officers at the time that he saw multiple people in a Lexus early that morning, and someone in the group was trying to break into another vehicle. Dixon told officers that when he confronted the group, the driver of the Lexus tried to run him over, then he fired multiple shots.

Police said on Friday that after reviewing surveillance video from the parking lot, they found that Dixon fired “several rounds” at the Lexus from behind the vehicle while it was leaving and it “no longer presented an immediate threat that would have justified the use of deadly force.”

Williams and Johnson died at the hospital, while the driver, 36-year-old Michael Thomas, of Washington, D.C., survived and later fled from the hospital.

On Monday, District Court Judge Eric Nee ordered that Dixon be held without bond until a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 7.

Dixon appeared by teleconference and answered questions from Nee, along with his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Lucy Larkins.

Nee ultimately granted a motion by Larkins to waive his bond review.

Jaqueline Yost, a Pentagon spokeswoman, wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat Monday evening that Dixon has been with the agency since July 2019 and is on administrative leave, pending the results of an internal administrative investigation.

In addition to the murder charges, Dixon has been charged with assault in connection with a May 2020 confrontation in the same apartment building, in which a video shows him pointing a shotgun at a woman in the lobby, according to charging documents.

Police said that at the time, Dixon reported that the woman was trying to hit him with an umbrella stick and that he had used pepper spray on her, but he hadn’t disclosed the fact that he pointed a shotgun at her.

A video posted by Fox 5 shows Dixon pointing the gun at the woman in the lobby of the apartment building.

Another incident involving Dixon happened in D.C. in July 2020, when police said a man went up to Dixon in his car holding a hatchet and threatened to kill him. Dixon then pulled out his service weapon and pointed it at the man, who then fled, according to a report from D.C. police.

Dixon has not been charged in connection with the D.C. incident.

In a statement, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency wrote that it is reopening an internal investigation into the May 2020 incident and is “aware” of the July 2020 incident.

“The Metropolitan Police Department conducted an investigation, which resulted in no charges. PFPA conducted an internal administrative investigation and cleared Officer Dixon of agency misconduct. We are aware of no other off duty incidents while Officer Dixon has been employed by the Agency,” the statement read.

Grand jury and lawsuit

State’s Attorney John McCarthy told reporters following Monday’s hearing that between all of the charges, Dixon could face up to 180 years in prison.

“The result of today’s hearing is that Mr. Dixon is in custody. He will remain in custody,” he said.

McCarthy told Bethesda Beat that he expects Dixon’s case to go before the grand jury “no later than the first week in May.”

Malik Shabazz, an attorney representing Williams’ family, told reporters after the hearing that the family plans to file a civil lawsuit after they complete their own investigation.

“[Dixon] must be held accountable for shooting Dominique in the back,” Shabazz said. “For shooting these two young men in the back without justification and without cause. It’s a sad day that we are here because a police officer, sworn to protect the public, decided that he would be judge, jury and executioner on the spot.”

Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart, in a statement on Friday, said the city is “horrified by these events, and [we] acknowledge this is all the more painful for those who have and continue to experience profiling based on their appearance and brutality at the hands of those sworn to protect us.

“There has been too much pain, trauma, and loss of life. It needs to end. From my perspective, there is no justification for what this person did. We do not and cannot tolerate violence. Our City is committed to ensuring justice is served. And it will be.”

Three times this year in Montgomery County, a law enforcement officer fatally shot someone.

On Jan. 8, at least one Gaithersburg police officer shot 24-year-old Kwamena Ocran following a confrontation with four plainclothes officers.

A Montgomery County deputy sheriff shot 52-year-old Kevin Costlow near Laytonsville on Feb. 6. Police said Costlow swung a large piece of wood as he came after the deputy.

‘Dixon was dangerous’

Shabazz said on Monday that he is pleased with the prosecution’s efforts in charging Dixon so far, but the family wants to know why Dixon wasn’t apprehended before Wednesday. He said Dixon’s two confrontations from 2020 should have been “forewarning to the place he lived [and] the place he worked.”

“We’re happy that [the prior incidents] came to light, but we’re very concerned that it came to light only now. … Because something could have been done in advance, because obviously, Dixon was dangerous, and he was known to be dangerous,” he said.

Shabazz said he isn’t convinced that someone was breaking into a vehicle prior to the confrontation last week, but regardless, that question “isn’t relevant” when it comes to Dixon’s use of deadly force.

“You use deadly force in response to the imminent threat of deadly force and nothing else,” he said.

Shabazz, unlike county prosecutors, is unconvinced that Dixon was acting as a private citizen — a remark similar to one made on Friday by an attorney for Johnson’s family.

The Williams family has started a GoFundMe called “Justice for Dominque Williams” to raise money for Williams’ funeral expenses and help his four children.

Shabazz said the family plans to hold another news conference Wednesday afternoon in Prince George’s County.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com