DA says deadly shooting at Montgomery County cemetery was self-defense: 'No criminal charges warranted'

The Montgomery County District Attorney says no criminal charges will be filed in relation to a deadly shooting at a cemetery after ruling it self-defense. 

The shooting erupted at a "birthday celebration" at Whitemarsh Memorial Park on the afternoon of March 18

Police say Daniel Hawkins, 29, of Philadelphia, was pronounced dead on scene and Arian Davis, 33, of Philadelphia, was seriously injured after being shot in the jaw, hand, and leg. He was transported to Abington Hospital for treatment, officials say. 

Authorities say more than 30 shots were fired in the deadly shooting and later recovered by investigators on scene. 

District Attorney Kevin R. Steele says Hawkins was found dead in a grassy area inside the cemetery with a handgun near his body. 

An investigation conducted by Horsham Township Police and Montgomery County detectives found that the firearm near Hawkins' body had an extended magazine and was altered with a device known as a switch, which converts the handgun into a fully automatic weapon, authorities say. 

Hawkins was prohibited from having a firearm due to prior criminal convictions and he drove to the cemetery in a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a fake temporary license plate, the DA's Office says. 


According to investigators, Davis and others went to the cemetery to celebrate the birthday of a friend who was killed in Norristown in 2013. 

As Davis and another person were sitting in the car they arrived in, Hawkins approached the vehicle and began shooting the automatic weapon at Davis, who he knew, police say. 

Authorities say Davis returned fire with his legally purchased gun for which he had a valid conceal carry permit and fatally struck Hawkins. 

"There is no doubt about who shot and killed Hawkins, so the legal issue to be analyzed is whether this was a justifiable killing. To be justified in his shooting of Hawkins, the shooter had to be in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. Evidence shows that Hawkins approached Davis’ vehicle and began firing multiple rounds at him using a firearm that was illegally altered to fire rapidly," Steele said. "Bullets struck Davis in multiple parts of his body before he fired back, striking Hawkins and killing him," said Steele. "Davis was under attack and in danger of being killed when he fired his legally owned weapon to end the threat. For these reasons, I conclude that this was a justifiable shooting, and therefore, no criminal charges are warranted."