Dayton officers suspended in case of woman, daughter found dead hours after police call

Attorney demands firing of officers, domestic violence retraining for entire force.

Supervisors suspended two Dayton police officers who responded to a domestic dispute in June hours before the bodies of a 31-year-old woman and her young daughter were found shot to death inside a house.

Officers Terrell Moore and Kathryn Santos are suspended without pay for 160 hours, and they received reprimands. They will undergo domestic violence and tactical training, the Dayton Police Department announced Friday.

They responded to the domestic violence call in the 300 block of Burleigh Avenue in the early-morning hours of June 23 and encountered Aisha Nelson, 31, and her boyfriend, Dante Rashad Hawes, 32. Nelson told police that Hawes had a gun and said he had threatened her multiple times. She said she just wanted to file a report but asked officers if they could make him leave for the night.

Officers did not secure the weapon and said Hawes agreed to stay in the finished basement, body-worn camera footage showed.

“Within minutes after officers Moore and Santos cleared the scene, this unseized handgun was used by Mr. (Hawes) to kill Ms. Nelson and Ms. Nelson’s 6-year-old daughter (Harper Monroe Guynn),” according to findings from the department’s professional standards bureau investigation.

Their bodies were found shortly before noon on June 23 after police were asked to do a wellbeing check at the residence. Hawes was found dead the same day inside his vehicle in the Hunstville, Alabama, area. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

“The investigation concluded that Officers Moore and Santos should have completed a crime report for domestic violence and should have seized the deadly weapon as contraband per department policy,” the release issued Friday stated.

Michael Wright, the Dayton attorney representing the estates of the victims, said two innocent lives were lost because of those officers’ reckless behavior.

“After speaking with the families, they are very, as am I, upset about the conclusions in addition to the punishment for these officers,” Wright said during a Friday afternoon media briefing at his downtown law office. “We are asking for their immediate termination and the retraining of the entire Dayton Police Department.”

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Officers Moore and Santos initially assigned to non-enforcement duties before they were returned to regular duty while the department’s professional standards bureau investigation was ongoing, Dayton police spokesman James Rider said.

The department’s investigation pointed to multiple errors. Moore and Santos attempted to mediate the situation as if Nelson and Hawes were having a minor disagreement, the report stated.

“In reality though, Mr. (Hawes) was armed with a handgun, repeatedly threatened Ms. Nelson over multiple days and cut off her credit cards in order to control her ability to leave,” the report stated.

During her interview with the professional standards bureau, Santos said she did not believe that Nelson truly believed the threats because she was calm, cool, collected and articulate while interacting with police.

“She did not paint the picture of somebody that was in fear of harm,” Santos said.

Either officer should have had Nelson complete a domestic violence witness statement, the report stated. Instead, “Officer Santos allowed her bias of how a crime victim should act to cloud her judgment. She then conveyed this opinion and bias to Officer Moore, who agreed with her assessment of the situation.”

Also, when speaking to Nelson and Hawes, each officer should have remained in each other’s line of sight but far enough for the couple to not overhear each other. In this case, Moore followed Hawes to the basement.

“This position put Officer Moore at a tactical disadvantage. Rather than controlling the situation, Officer Moore allowed Mr. (Hawes) to control it. Fortunately, Mr. (Hawes) did not choose to harm Officer Moore or Officer Santos,” the report stated.

Even after Nelson said she “just wanted to make a report,” the officers did not file a domestic violence report as required by department policy.

“Knowing the dangers gun present on domestic-related calls for service, Officers Moore and Santos should have immediately attempted to locate the weapon and secure it. As soon as Ms. Nelson told Officer Santos about Mr. (Hawes) access to the gun in the basement, Officer Santos should have immediately notified Officer Moore and helped him secure the weapon.”

Wright’s firm filed a lawsuit on Dec. 5 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court against the two officers involved, the police department city on behalf of the estates of Nelson and Guynn alleges that officers did not follow department policy when they responded to the Burleigh Avenue house.

Wright said Friday that in addition to the firing of Moore and Santos, he wants the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and U.S. Department of Justice to look into the case.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

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