NASA employee arrested in deadly Springfield shooting had ongoing dispute with neighbor

A man is facing charges after a deadly shooting Tuesday evening in a Springfield, Virginia, neighborhood. The suspect is a NASA employee, and the victim served as a Maryland National Guardsman. The shooting may be the result of an ongoing dispute between the neighbors.

Michael Hetle, 52, of Springfield, is “a career civil servant who works at NASA headquarters in Washington in the agency’s Enterprise Protection Program,” a NASA spokesman told WTOP.

Hetle has been charged with second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony for the deadly shooting in his neighborhood Tuesday evening.

It happened just before 5 p.m. in the 7700 block of Bedstraw Court, where Fairfax County police said they found 24-year-old Javon Prather, of Springfield, shot to death.

Prather’s mother, Shavon Prather, told NBC Washington that Javon Prather and Hetle were next-door neighbors who had argued for years.

“(Hetle) would call the HOA (home owners association) and say there was dog poop in their backyard,” Shavon Prather told The Washington Post. “He would call and complain when they put out trash. Anything he could do to scold them and to get them in trouble.”

Shavon Prather said her daughter-in-law witnessed the shooting. Her son served as an infantryman for nearly four years in the Maryland National Guard.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan retweeted the message and sent condolences to Javon Prather’s loved ones.

“We’re deeply saddened by the passing of Specialist Javon Prather,” Hogan wrote. “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.”

According to an online bio on NASA’s website, Hetle previously worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and retired as a senior officer from the Navy after over 25 years of active and reserve service.

Hetle also served as a police officer in Bellevue, Washington — just outside of Seattle — from 1994, and resigned in 2003, a department spokesperson confirmed.

During his tenure, he was involved in two deadly shootings: in 2000, he shot and killed a suspected bank robber who was armed, and in 2001, he shot and killed an unarmed Guatemalan man during a response to a domestic incident, the Seattle Times reported. That shooting prompted a lawsuit that was settled by the city.

Hetle was cleared in both shootings, the Bellevue police spokesperson said.

Fairfax County police said Hetle was taken into custody at the scene Tuesday night. He is being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

Anyone with more information about this shooting can call police at (703) 246-7800.

Police said this shooting is the second homicide of the year to date in Fairfax County.

Below is a map of the area where police said the deadly shooting happened.

Watch a report from WTOP’s news partner, NBC Washington, below:

WTOP’s Teta Alim and Megan Cloherty contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report. 

Colleen Kelleher

Colleen Kelleher is an award-winning journalist who has been with WTOP since 1996. Kelleher joined WTOP as the afternoon radio writer and night and weekend editor and made the move to in 2001. Now she works early mornings as the site's Senior Digital Editor.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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