Former cop convicted of fatally shooting his neighbor after their multiyear feud spirals out of control

virginia
Source: Fairfax County Police Department; MEGA

Oct. 15 2021, Published 1:17 p.m. ET

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A man in Virginia was found guilty of murdering a neighbor who shared a townhouse wall with him after loud music sparked the tragic unraveling of their years-long feud.

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On March 4, 2020, Michael Hetle, 54, got into an argument with 24-year-old Javon Prather. A Ring video of the incident played in court shows Hetle, then a NASA executive, come out of his house and fire at Prather, seemingly without warning, hitting his neighbor in the stomach, the Washington Post reported.

Prather is then seen turning and fleeing down Hetle’s front steps as Hetle fires off six more rounds. Prather, video shows, collapses in Hetle’s driveway and Hetle fires at him a seventh time before turning his gun on the victim’s wife, Janelle, and yelling: “You want it too?”

Hetle, a former Washington state police officer, argued at trial that he acted in self-defense, claiming Prather had threatened him on multiple occasions leading up to the deadly shooting.

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The day of the murder, Hetle testified in court, he called the police after Prather and Prather’s wife returned home in their car listening to loud music and allegedly drinking. Hestle said he told Prather he had called police and Prather responded by pounding on their adjoining wall before, Ring video shows, he left his townhouse and walked up Hetle’s front stairs and banged on the door.

According to Hetle, his front door was knocked ajar and he believed his neighbor was armed and about to come inside his home.

“It was this look of pure rage,” Hetle claimed of Prather’s expression immediately before the shooting. “His eyes were wide and bloodshot.”

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Fairfax County prosecutor Lyle Burnham, however, countered in a closing statement: “He didn’t want Javon hurt. He didn’t want Javon to leave. He wanted Javon dead.”

On Oct. 14, a jury found Hetle guilty of a firearms violation and murder after about eight hours of deliberation. Hetle's sentencing is scheduled for January 28. He faces up to life behind bars.

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