Ercell Overton pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and two counts of assault to a police officer while armed in connection with the shooting death of 57-year-old taxi driver Solomon James Okoroh.
Overton, 32, signed an Alford plea agreement, which means that he accepts punishment without asserting guilt. In entering the plea, Overton said he is unable to remember the shooting because he was under the influence of PCP at the time. As a result, Overton can not admit to criminal acts, but agrees that prosecutor’s evidence would be likely prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors have agreed to request a sentence of 25 to 28 years in prison.
On June 4, 2013, Okoroh suffered two gunshot wounds in his taxi, one to each shoulder. After being shot he crashed his taxi in the 2300 block of Ontario Road Northwest. Police arrested Overton after he was seen fleeing Okoroh’s taxi.
During this morning’s hearing, Judge Canan asked prosecutors to amend the factual proffer of Overton’s plea to include information that Okoroh identified his shooter before he died as wearing glasses having long dread locks. Okoroh’s description matched Overton at the time of his arrest, according to proffer.
According to charging documents, on the early morning hours of June 3, 2013 Metropolitan Police officers were patrolling the Adams Morgan neighborhood in an unmarked car when they heard a single gunshot.
Seconds later, a Ford Explorer taxicab sped past the officers, at which time they heard another gunshot and saw a flash from inside the vehicle. The taxi, which was headed southbound in the 2300 block of Ontario Road NW, then crashed into another vehicle and a parking meter.
Police officers drove up to the crashed taxi, and saw Overton jump out of the vehicle. Overton pointed a handgun at one of the officers that was still inside the car, and then ran into the bushes of a nearby residence. Moments later, from behind a fence, Overton fired shots at police as they surrounded his location; the officers returned fire. Overton then kicked in the door of a basement apartment where he took refuge until he was apprehended by a K-9 Unit.
Overton is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22 by Judge Russell Canan.
An earlier version of this story misstated that Overton fled from Overton’s taxi. Overton was fleeing from Okoroh’s taxi.
A press release and plea documents have been added below.
District Man Pleads Guilty to the Murder of a Taxi Driver And Felony Assault of Two Police Officers
Defendant Fired at Officers, Forcibly Entered Apartment in Hopes of Evading Capture
WASHINGTON – Ercell D. Overton, 32, of Washington, D.C., has pled guilty to second-degree murder while armed and other charges in the fatal shooting last June of taxicab driver Solomon J. Okoroh and a subsequent shoot-out with police, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
In addition to the murder charge, Overton pled guilty on Feb. 12, 2014 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to two counts of felony assault on a police officer while armed. The Honorable Russell F. Canan scheduled sentencing for April 25, 2014. The plea agreement, contingent upon the Court’s approval, calls for a prison sentence of 25 years to 28 years.
According to the government’s evidence, at approximately 3 a.m. on June 4, 2013, three officers from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) were in a police vehicle and on patrol in the Adams Morgan area of Northwest Washington when they heard the sound of a single gunshot. Moments later, the officers observed a speeding Ford Explorer, “Classic Cab” taxi pass their location. The taxicab headed south in the 2300 block of Ontario Road NW, where it crashed into a parked car. As the taxicab passed by the police vehicle, officers observed a muzzle flash and heard the sound of a second gunshot from inside the passenger compartment of the taxi.
Upon impact, officers observed an unarmed man flee from the rear passenger side of the taxi. Two of the officers exited the police vehicle and apprehended the fleeing man without incident after a brief pursuit by foot.
Overton, on foot, then appeared behind the police vehicle and pointed a pistol toward the third officer, who was at the driver’s wheel. That officer exited the vehicle and took cover. Overton then ran behind the fence line of a house in the 2300 block of Ontario Road NW and discharged his weapon in the direction of two of the three police officers, who returned fire. Overton then forcibly entered a basement apartment on the block in an attempt to evade capture. MPD officers subsequently gained entry into the apartment and apprehended Overton and recovered a semi-automatic pistol in close proximity to Overton.
The taxi driver was later identified as Solomon J. Okoroh, 57, of Glenarden, Md. Mr. Okoroh suffered two fatal gunshot wounds to his back. He was taken to a hospital, where he died about two hours after the shooting. Prior to his death, he provided detectives assigned to the case a physical description of his assailant, which matched that of Overton.
In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Machen praised those who investigated the case for the MPD, including members of the Third District and Homicide Branch. He also expressed appreciation for those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Kwasi Fields. Finally, he commended the work of Assistant U.S Attorney George Pace, who is prosecuting the matter.