Federal officials close review into the death of Wayne Jones
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against Martinsburg, West Virginia, Police Department (MPD) Officers in connection with the 2013 shooting death of Wayne Jones.
Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of West Virginia and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division met today with the Jones family and their representatives to inform them of this decision.
Federal authorities conducted a comprehensive and independent review of the evidence related to the death of Jones, who was shot during a struggle with MPD officers on March 13, 2013. Federal authorities reviewed the evidence collected during the state investigation, including video recordings, witness interviews, physical evidence, officer statements and expert testimony.
The team of experienced federal prosecutors and federal authorities reviewed the evidence to determine whether the involved officers violated federal law by willfully using unreasonable force against Jones. Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right. To establish willfulness, federal authorities must show that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law. Mistake, misperception, negligence and poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.
In this instance, federal authorities determined that the physical, testimonial and circumstantial evidence was insufficient to refute the subjects’ claims that they believed they had to fire their weapons while acting in self-defense or in defense of others. Accordingly, the federal review of this incident has been closed without prosecution. This decision is limited strictly to an application of the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the federal civil rights statute; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the incident that led to Jones’s death.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of West Virginia, the Civil Rights Division and the FBI are committed to investigating allegations of civil rights violations by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated. The department will aggressively prosecute criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.