Horrified Passengers Witnessed Brutal July 4 Slaying Aboard Metro Car

Peter Hermann et al., Washington Post, July 7, 2015

Jasper Spires boarded the Red Line Metro train at Rhode Island Avenue shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday, joining passengers from the District and elsewhere headed to various Fourth of July festivities, among them the Foo Fighters concert at RFK Stadium.

As the train rumbled toward its next stop, at NoMa-Gallaudet, a three-minute ride, D.C. police said, the 18-year-old Spires–who may have been high on synthetic drugs–tried to grab a cellphone tucked into the waistband of a recent American University graduate headed to a gathering with friends.

The two struggled, police said, and the terror began.

Police and a witness interviewed said passengers trapped in the moving train huddled at both ends of the car and watched in horror as Spires punched 24-year-old Kevin Joseph Sutherland until he fell to the floor, then stabbed him until he was dead. Court documents say the victim was cut or stabbed 30 or 40 times, in the chest, abdomen, back, side and arms. Police said the assailant then threw the victim’s cellphone and returned to stomp on Sutherland’s body.

Jasper Spires and Kevin Sutherland

Jasper Spires and Kevin Sutherland

“We were in a moving train,” said a 52-year-old woman, who spoke on the condition that she not be named because she is both a victim and a witness to a crime. “You’re not really sure what you need to do. . . . This man is holding a bloody knife. I don’t think anyone was going to try and stop him.”

When the frenzy was over, the woman, who is from Texas and was headed to the concert with her 76-year-old father, said the attacker turned his bloody knife on them. A police report said he told her father, who lives in the District, “Give me what you got,” took $60 and threw the man’s wallet on the floor. The man’s daughter then handed over an additional $160 “to keep him from hurting her father,” a police report said. The attacker also robbed other passengers, police said.

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D.C. police arrested Spires on Monday morning after a citywide manhunt and charged him with first-degree murder while armed. A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered him detained during an initial court appearance Tuesday. In the arrest affidavit, a police officer described past encounters with Spires, saying that “he acted as if he was under the influence and would talk to himself.”

Spires, who had attended a private college in North Carolina but was no longer enrolled, was previously arrested most recently on Thursday when police said he accosted a man on Wisconsin Avenue in Friendship Heights and later kicked two officers as they tried to handcuff him. Police had forwarded to prosecutors charges that included felony robbery, but because nothing was taken from the man, the U.S. attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence to support the charge. Prosecutors instead charged Spires with misdemeanor assault, and he was freed from custody Friday.

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Police said Spires was seen on surveillance video entering the Metro station at Rhode Island Avenue at 12:38 p.m. wearing a red bandanna, gold Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses and high-top sneakers. Aboard the train, he confronted Sutherland, police said.

“I watched [the attacker] drop-kick him in the head several times, like he wanted to kick his head off,” said the woman who was on her way to the concert with her father. “We saw the perpetrator kicking the man. He had him on the ground, punching him, kicking him and stabbing him.”

The woman said Sutherland was “moaning a lot. . . . Never in my life have I seen anything like this. I saw [the attacker] bent over him. I did see the bloody knife in his hand.”

The woman, who said she was among about 10 passengers on the car, pulled out her phone and called 911. Another passenger, she said, moved forward on the train to get help. Police said Spires robbed other people on the car, although the timing was not immediately clear. He has not been charged in those robberies.

The arrest affidavit says Spires walked through the car and asked people, “What y’all got?” and then rifled through a man’s pants, taking a fare card and a wallet. Police said he took $65 and threw the wallet and the fare card to the ground.

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[Editor’s Note: Kevin Sutherland wrote blogs in in support of gun control.]

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