By Derrick Perkins (File photo)
A grim, but resolute Gwen Pratt Miller publicly thanked Judge Becky Moore on Tuesday for sending the case against Craig Patterson — who’s accused of killing her son — to a grand jury.
“I’m just happy with the outcome ... that was my only child,” she told a press of reporters outside the city courthouse after Patterson’s preliminary hearing. “I just want to see justice done is all I want to say.”
Prosecutors charged Patterson, 44, of Alexandria, with first-degree murder after he shot and killed 22-year-old Julian Dawkins in the early morning hours of May 22. Witnesses saw the two arguing on the 100 block of Lynhaven Drive hours earlier. Though Patterson left the scene, the off-duty Arlington County sheriff’s deputy allegedly returned with his sidearm, fired at Dawkins and then dialed 911.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel played the emergency call to a tense courtroom overflowing with supporters of both men as he finished sketching out the prosecution’s case against Patterson.
“A young man pulled a knife on me, and I shot him,” Patterson can be heard saying in the recording — after identifying himself as a lawman — before the dispatcher cut him off to ask for a location.
“He pulled a knife on me,” Patterson later reiterated as an officer arriving on the scene ordered him to hang up.
But at least one investigator called to testify seemed to refute Patterson’s claim, which prosecutors also have contested. Police officer Judy Taylor went through Dawkins’ belongings in the hospital emergency room and did find a knife with a 3-inch blade, but it was folded and clipped inside the victim’s pants pocket.
While attorney Joseph King admitted that Patterson’s return perhaps was not the wisest choice, he held up Dawkins’ weapon — and the fact that he had been drinking — as reason for the off-duty lawman to intervene.
“Maybe that’s not a great decision, but maybe he’s coming back to somebody who is shown to be a danger,” King said.
The defense’s sole witness described seeing Dawkins chase Patterson down the street before their final, deadly confrontation.
Dawkins, known as a popular and friendly young man who worked as a driver for “PBS NewsHour,” was celebrating at a party for his cousin, then recently drafted by the Washington Mystics. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 at the time of his death, King said.
Though King attempted to portray neighbor Charonda Brown as biased — she knew and liked Dawkins — the city resident compellingly recalled under oath what might have been the 22-year-old’s final moments. After hearing a gunshot, she left her house and found Dawkins on the ground.
“My whole intention was to try to help ... try to get him to move, to say something to me,” she testified, her voice wavering. “I heard him take a deep breath and let it go. And that was it.”
Patterson, who has been held without bond since his arrest and placed on unpaid administrative leave, also faces a charge of using a firearm while committing a felony. As Moore announced her ruling, applause broke out in the packed courtroom.
“We’re grateful to God that the decision made was the proper one,” said the T.C. Williams graduate’s father, Curtis Dawkins.