Opening statements heard in murder trial of Arlington sheriff’s deputy

Opening statements heard in murder trial of Arlington sheriff’s deputy
The Alexandria Courthouse. (File Photo)

By Erich Wagner

Attorneys outlined their cases in the murder trial of Arlington County sheriff’s deputy Craig Patterson Monday afternoon, with the defense team arguing that Patterson acted in self-defense when he shot Lynhaven resident Julian Dawkins in May.

Patterson, a 17-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, faces charges of murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a murder. Patterson, 45, shot Dawkins, 22, after a confrontation early May 22.

Prosecutors argued in their opening statement that the two men encountered each other along the 100 block of Lynhaven Drive and got into an argument. Patterson told Dawkins, “I’ll be back, you’d best believe I’ll be back,” before he fled the scene, retrieved his service weapon, and returned to shoot Dawkins, said prosecutor Laura Greene.

“How in the world did this happen?” Greene said. “Because of the defendant’s course of action, his deliberate choices both individually and collectively could only have ended in a terrible result.”

Both sides noted that Dawkins was intoxicated before the shooting, which occurred while he was celebrating a cousin who had been drafted by the Washington Mystics. Defense attorney Joseph King argued Patterson had left the scene to retrieve handcuffs with which he hoped to detain a belligerent Dawkins.

King said Dawkins brandished a knife when the two began arguing, and Patterson’s actions were not malicious.

“Patterson was doing his moral duty in trying to arrest Mr. Dawkins for breach of the peace,” King said. “The commonwealth’s theory is that [after the confrontation] he was going back to shoot Mr. Dawkins, but that’s not what the facts show and not what the history and character of Mr. Patterson will show.”

King said that Patterson identified himself as a law enforcement officer during the initial confrontation and when he happened upon Dawkins again, shouting, “Stop, police,” during the second encounter. But Greene indicated a witness will dispute this claim.

“Mr. Dawkins was talking on the phone to his friend, Kim Bragg, at the time, as he was walking to her house to hang out,” Greene said. “She heard no instructions to stop or anything else, just the gunshot. Medics found his cell phone in the grass near his arm.”

King said Dawkins’ cell phone records do not support that claim, and during a scuffle during the second encounter — which he said began when Dawkins “took a swing” at Patterson — the defendant saw “something” in Dawkins’ hand.

“He saw something in his hand and shot one time, he didn’t know what it was,” he said. “Mr. Patterson had probable cause to believe this person was going to do serious bodily harm to him. He did not shoot with malice.”

The trial is expected to continue through the end of this week.