Shot Six Times in The Back

root - Posted on 07 September 2000

Howard University Student Killed by Maryland Police

by Tom Jackman

(Reprinted from the Washington Post, courtesy of
Saturday , September 2, 2000

An undercover Prince George's County detective followed a man from Maryland into the District and finally into Fairfax County, then shot the man to death early yesterday after the man rammed the detective's unmarked car with his Jeep Cherokee, authorities said.

Prince C. Jones, 25, of Hyattsville, a personal trainer at a Bally's Fitness Center there, was pronounced dead at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Fairfax police said Jones and the detective, whose name they would not release, were in their vehicles when Jones was shot about 3 a.m. near Seven Corners, and police would not say whether Jones fired any shots. After he was shot, Jones drove about two-tenths of a mile toward the home of his fiancee, Candace Jackson, 22, and crashed into a parked car just steps from the house where Jackson was waiting for him.

Neither Fairfax nor Prince George's police would say what sparked the confrontation that led to the shooting, whether Jones was armed, why he was being followed or how many times he was shot. Fairfax police said the detective identified himself as a police officer, but they would not say how or at what point during the incident.

The police account was immediately questioned by Jackson and an attorney for Jones's family. They said they couldn't understand how the detective could have identified himself, and they described Jones as a hard worker who had never been in trouble. The attorney, Ted J. Williams, a longtime family friend, said the family would seek an independent FBI investigation.

In the past 13 months, Prince George's County police have shot 12 people, killing five of them, including Jones. Two other men have died of injuries in police custody. Most of the incidents are being investigated by the FBI, and the Justice Department is considering conducting a broader probe to determine whether there is a pattern of civil rights violations by county police.

In May, juries awarded $4.1 million and $647,000 to two people who were beaten or otherwise mistreated by county officers. County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) has appointed a task force to take a broad look at police behavior. The group is to issue a report by Oct. 1.

The number of complaints alleging excessive force, harassment and the use of abusive language surged 53 percent last year, to 90, the highest number since 1994.

The detective involved in yesterday's shooting, a 26-year-old man with six years on the force, was placed on leave with pay and has not been charged, said Cpl. Tim Estes, a Prince George's police spokesman. Estes would not say whether the detective had violated any laws or policies pending an internal investigation. The Prince George's police weapons policy says, "Firearms may only be discharged . . . from or at moving vehicles when the occupants of the other vehicle are using or threatening deadly force by a means other than the vehicle."

Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said he would await the police investigation before deciding whether to file charges. He said no officer had been charged in a police-related shooting in his 32 years as prosecutor in Fairfax.

The incident began in Hyattsville, where both the detective and his supervisor were conducting surveillance on Jones, Estes said. He said they began following Jones in the Chillum Park area. They followed him through the District and into Virginia without losing sight of him, Estes said. He would not say why Jones was being followed. The detective is assigned to a narcotics unit in the Hyattsville

Estes said that Prince George's police routinely venture into other jurisdictions during investigations and that their policy is to notify the other jurisdiction only if an arrest, the serving of a search warrant or other overt action is to occur. They did not alert Fairfax or the District about this case, Estes said.

After the officers followed Jones into Fairfax County, Jones pulled onto Beechwood Lane, just off Route 50 near Seven Corners. The detective's supervisor became separated from the surveillance, but the detective continued, Estes said.

Rather than continue to the house where Jackson was staying, Jones apparently pulled into Spring Terrace. Estes said the detective did not make himself known to Jones and didn't initiate contact, but "apparently [Jones] made himself known to the officer."

Neither Fairfax nor Prince George's police would provide details of what happened next, other than to say that a confrontation occurred and that Jones rammed the driver's side of the unmarked police car. One neighbor, who asked that her name be withheld, said her husband heard 12 shots. Another neighbor said she was awakened by the sound of squealing tires, heard shots, then more
squealing tires.

Williams, the family attorney, said a Fairfax detective told him Jones apparently pulled into a driveway and turned off his lights. The unmarked police car went past, then turned around. As the police car approached again, Jones rammed it, Williams said.

Officer Jayne Woolf, a Fairfax police spokeswoman, said the detective "at one point did identify himself as a police officer." But she would not say whether either man got out of his vehicle.

"It does not make sense, that if someone was ramming your car, you have the wherewithal to identify yourself and shoot at the same time," Williams said. Williams said a doctor at Inova Fairfax told him that Jones had been shot nine times. Police would not say how many times Jones was hit.

Members of Jones's family said Jones did not own or ever use a gun. A family friend said she was told by a Fairfax police officer that Prince George's police had pursued a Jeep from Hyattsville, lost it, and picked up the wrong Jeep in Virginia. Prince George's police denied that account.

Jones, who attended Howard University and was working toward a degree in human development, worked as a trainer and sales representative at Bally's.

"He was of an awesome character," said Charles Greene, manager of the Wheaton gym. "He helped liven the place up. When people would come in he would greet them and say, 'Come on, let's work out, let's get started.' There wasn't anyone who didn't enjoy working with him."

Courtney Phelps, a friend since 1992, called Jones "the most clean-cut guy" who never had been in trouble.

Jones, whose mother is a radiologist, hoped to become a doctor after spending a stint in the Navy, said Jackson, his fiancee. She said he was a fitness fanatic who "would never take drugs. He prays all the time. He was not a violent person; all he wanted to do was do the right thing, and they stole that."

Jackson learned of the shooting after Jones's car crashed into the parked car outside her home and she heard the commotion that followed. She wandered outside to see what was happening, then saw Jones's black Jeep with Pennsylvania license plates. "At that point, I freaked out," Jackson said. She went with friends to Inova Fairfax.

"All he wanted to do was to see his daughter grow up," said Jackson, who has a 10-month-old daughter, Nina, by Jones. "They robbed him of that."


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