Pr. George’s officer charged with assault

August 3, 2012

A veteran Prince George’s County police officer was charged Friday with misconduct in office, reckless endangerment and second-degree assault for allegedly striking a Cottage City teenager with his gun — causing the weapon to discharge — then lying about what happened so he could criminally charge the young man, authorities and law enforcement sources said.

Cpl. Donald Taylor, who has worked for the department for 13 years, had his police powers suspended shortly after the Feb. 3 incident in which he was caught on video hitting a teen with his gun, authorities and law enforcement sources said. Charged by way of a criminal summons — meaning he is not jailed — Taylor has been assigned to desk duty in the department and will have a hearing Monday to determine whether he will continue getting paid, Assistant Prince George’s Police Chief Kevin Davis said.

Robert C. Bonsib, Taylor’s attorney, said his client plans to fight the charges.

“This is an officer with a good reputation who was operating in good faith in trying to address what appeared to be a potential crime, and it’s unfortunate that he was indicted for doing his job,” Bonsib said. “We’re confident that when all the facts are known that he’ll be found not guilty.”

Police had dropped some of the charges against Ryan Dorm, who turned 20 shortly after the incident, almost immediately and suspended Taylor and another officer. All charges against Dorm were dropped in May. His attorney announced soon after that he filed a lawsuit against the county government and police for $10 million.

“My client spent three months incarcerated for something he did not do, that was made up,” said Jimmy Bell, Dorm’s attorney. “I hope the government plans to make sure this officer does some actual jail time for what he did.”

The incident started when Prince George’s officers in the Brentwood area saw two people — at least one wearing a mask — go into the Lowest Price Gas station convenience store, authorities have said. According to the account police first gave in charging documents, the officers thought that the men were about to rob the store. According to the documents, Dorm, then 19, punched a detective and ran. Another detective, identified as Taylor, chased him and saw what he thought was a gun fall from Dorm’s waistband, the charging papers allege. He drew his gun, and Dorm “charged towards” him and “attempted to disarm him.” The encounter caused Taylor’s gun to fire, according to the documents.

Davis said Friday that internal affairs investigators reviewed video surveillance footage soon after the incident that did not match that account. He said that as they investigated the case further, prosecutors decided to charge Taylor — in part because he “inappropriately charged a person with a crime that he did not commit.”

Law enforcement sources have said the video shows an officer approach Dorm, draw his weapon and strike him in the head — while the teen makes no aggressive movements. At some point, police have said, the gun fired, but no one was injured.

Davis said Friday that the other suspended officer remains on administrative duties, though the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office has indicated that he will not be criminally charged, nor will any other officers.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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