NASA executive turned agent found guilty of murdering his National Guard neighbor after years of feud
A former cop who once shot two people on the job was found guilty of murder after killing his neighbor after years of fighting over loud music, garbage and dog poo.
Police officer, NASA Director 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, yelling, “Would you like that?
A jury deliberated Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in a Fairfax County courtroom to find him guilty of first-degree murder.
Hetle could face life in prison if convicted on January 28.
He tried to claim that he fired the shots in self-defense to protect his family and claimed that Prather threatened him for months before 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 captured the deadly shooting that took place in a Virginia neighborhood (Pictured: Prather knocks on Hetle’s front door after a previous altercation)
Hetle and Prather fought for three years before things turned deadly on March 4, 2020 (Pictured: Hetle fired seven shots in six seconds, killing Prather)
Hetle claimed Prather was killed in self-defense but the jury disagreed (Pictured: Hetle aimed his gun and threatened Prather’s wife Janelle as she tried to control her husband)
Fairfax County prosecutor Joe Martin informed the court that Hetle sent an email to the neighborhood association warning that his feud with Prather “could lead to tragedy.”
On March 4, 2020, Hetle fired seven shots in six seconds, killing his neighbor with whom he shares a wall as local residents and the victim’s wife looked on in shock.
Prosecutors said Hetle was angry that the homeowners’ association and the police had not done more to follow up on his complaints about Prather.
Video footage captured by 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 hard that the door was broken open.
“It was this look of pure rage,” Hetle said in court as he described Prather’s face before opening fire. “His eyes were large and bloodshot.”
Then the former police officer is seen coming out and firing seven shots without saying a word.
Hetle has been recorded firing four shots at close range, two shots into Prather’s back as he runs away and falls off the front steps, and then the last shot while Prather is lying in Hetle’s driveway.
Prather’s wife Janelle then watches her run to her husband as Hetle points his gun at her and threatens, “Would you like that?”
As she yells for her to call the police as she tries to get to her husband’s body, he keeps yelling, “Get out of here,” “Get out,” “Get out.”
Prather (pictured) was a National Guard. Hetle was a NASA director and former agent
Hetle sent an email to his neighborhood association warning that his feud with Prather on the day of the deadly incident “could lead to tragedy”
Hetle and Prather lived side by side in Springfield, Virginia and shared a wall
Prather’s wife eventually ignores the threats and muster the courage to drag her husband’s body into their yard.
One of Prather’s family members was overcome with emotion as the disturbing clip played in the courtroom and began to sob uncontrollably.
Fairfax County prosecutor Lyle Burnham called the shooting an execution during his closing statement: “He didn’t want Javon to get hurt,” Burnham said.
“He didn’t want Javon to leave. He wanted Javon dead.’
The neighbor dispute started in 2017 when Hetle alleges Prather used his garden hose after denying him permission to use it to clean his car.
Things escalated over the next three years, and Hetle even filed a restraining order against Prather’s wife after she allegedly threw items at his home and car.
Hetle complained to the police about his neighbors several times. In other video evidence shown in court, Prather is seen from his porch as police officers walk out of Hetle’s house.
Prather’s wife insists that the conflict between Hetle, a white man, and Prather, a biracial man, was racially motivated, as testimonies showed that Hetle often referred to his neighbor with a racist statement.
Fairfax County Commonwealth attorney Steve Descano agreed 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 was working as the associate administrator’s executive officer for the Aviation Research Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters.
He previously worked for the Bellevue Police Department until his resignation in 2003 and was involved in two fatal shootings.
In 2001, he shot and killed 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 acquitted 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 lawsuit for $75,000.