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NASA employee charged in fatal shooting of Maryland National Guardsman

Michael Hetle, 52, is accused of shooting to death his neighbor, Javon Prather, 24. Prather's mother said the two men fought for years over dog poop, loud music and guests.

A NASA employee was charged with murder in the shooting death Wednesday of his 24-year-old neighbor, a Maryland National Guardsman, according to police.

Michael Hetle, 52, of Springfield, Virginia, is being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center on charges of second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Image: Michael Hetle
Michael Hetle.Fairfax County Police Dept.

Police found Javon Prather, 24, suffering from a gunshot wound just before 5 p.m. Wednesday. Officers tried to administer aid, but Prather was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a statement from police. Hetle was immediately arrested.

Prather's mother, Shavon Prather, told NBC Washington that her son and Hetle had fought for years.

"He's been giving my son and his wife problems for a very long time," Prather said. The two fought over dog poop, loud music and guests, said Prather and neighbors.

A neighbor also said he heard at least seven shots Wednesday, NBC Washington reported.

Prather was a specialist with the 175th Infantry Regiment of the Maryland National Guard. "He served as an infantryman for nearly four years & was awarded the Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon & the National Defense Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon. Rest easy, brother," said a tweet from the Guard.

Gov. Larry Hogan said he was "deeply saddened" about the passing of the guardsman. "The First Lady and I ask all Marylanders to join us in sending our heartfelt prayers to Javon’s family, friends, & to all those who loved him," Hogan wrote in a tweet.

A statement from NASA sent to NBC News said that Hetle "is a career civil servant who works at NASA Headquarters in Washington in the agency’s Enterprise Protection Program."

Hetle previously served as a police officer in Bellevue, Washington, from 1994 to 2001, a department spokeswoman told NBC News. He was involved in two police-involved shootings, in 2000 and 2001.

He was cleared in both shootings, recalled by the Navy in 2001 to serve as an active duty officer, and officially resigned from the Bellevue Police Department in 2003 to pursue an opportunity outside of Washington, according to a department statement from the time.

Police are investigating Wednesday's shooting, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia is working to determine Prather's manner of death.

Prior to the murder charge, Hetle's record in Fairfax shows one speeding violation in 2011.

Prather had faced charges of public drunkenness, assault and battery and petit larceny earlier this year in Fairfax, court records show. Previous charges dating back to 2017 included driving under the influence in 2019, driving without a license and reckless driving.

Prather's mother said her son, who was currently working as a manager at Giant Foods, was a "good man."

"No one deserved to die like that. I don't care what kind of disagreement you're having," Shavon Prather said. "No one should be shot in cold blood and die like that."

CORRECTION (March 6, 2020, 7:37 a.m.): A previous version of this article misstated who was recently charged with assault and drinking in public. It was Prather, not Hetle.