FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECR
FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2001(202) 616-2777
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
STATEMENT BY ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM YEOMANS REGARDING
CLOSING OF THE PRINCE JONES CASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - - Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights William R. Yeomans announced today that the investigation into the shooting of Prince Jones has concluded and there is insufficient evidence to justify federal criminal civil rights charges against an undercover officer of the Prince George's County, Maryland Police Department. He added, however, that the Civil Rights Division will continue to evaluate the incident as a part of its civil investigation of the patterns or practices of the Prince George's County Police Department.
The incident took place on September 1, 2000, in a residential area of Fairfax, Virginia in the early morning hours. The officer followed Mr. Jones from Maryland through the District of Columbia and into Virginia, erroneously believing him to be a suspect in an ongoing investigation into the theft of a police officer's firearm.
According to physical evidence, which is supported by an eyewitness account, Jones drove in reverse and twice rammed into the driver's door of the undercover officer's car while it was sideways in the road. The officer responded, firing through the rear window of the victim's Jeep and striking the victim. Mr. Jones, who was unarmed, was not one of the suspects in the investigation and may have himself not realized that the car he rammed was being driven by an undercover police officer.
To bring federal criminal civil rights charges, the evidence must support the conclusion that the police officer willfully deprived Mr. Jones of his constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force. The federal statute requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a law enforcement officer acted with the specific intent to use force that he knew at the time was unreasonable. Mistake, fear, or bad judgment is not sufficient to establish a willful violation. In evaluating the case, the Department consulted experts from the FBI and local law enforcement in several forensic areas, including ballistics and accident reconstruction.
"The death of Prince Jones was a terrible tragedy but our thorough investigation did not reveal evidence that established that the police officer intended to use more force than he believed was reasonable under the circumstances," said Acting Assistant Attorney General William R. Yeomans.
The Department's conclusion that federal criminal civil rights charges are not warranted does not affect its civil investigation of the patterns or practices of the Prince George's County Police Department.