A former Prince George’s County police officer who faced criminal charges for striking a teen with a gun was found not guilty on all counts Thursday after an emotional three-day bench trial that revolved around surveillance footage of the incident.
Tears came down the faces of 40-year-old Donald Taylor, who has since retired, and his wife as Circuit Court Judge Dwight Jackson delivered the verdict.
Taylor was facing charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, providing a false statement to police and misconduct in office stemming from a Feb. 4, 2012, foot chase that ended in Taylor hitting then-19-year-old Ryan Dorm in the head with a handgun — an action that was captured on surveillance camera. The gun discharged, but no one was shot.
In delivering the verdict, Jackson said the video did not show the totality of the circumstances faced by Taylor.
“The video is just an excerpt from the incident,” Jackson said. “It gives some objective idea of what happened, but it doesn’t provide the perspectives shared by the humans on the ground.”
The incident began as officers stopped at Lowest Price Gas in Brentwood spotted two men — one wearing a ski mask — who they thought were robbery suspects, police have said.
Dorm, one of those men, assaulted one officer and ran, police said, and Taylor gave chase. About three-tenths of a mile away, Dorm slowed down and Taylor struck him, according to testimony.
Dorm, of Brentwood, was charged with assaulting the other officer and has been found guilty in that case.
Dorm also initially had been charged with assaulting Taylor after Taylor stated that Dorm had grabbed his arm and reached for his weapon. When officials concluded the surveillance video contradicted Taylor’s written accounts, those charges were dropped, and Taylor was charged.
“This case is very simple. He lied to get out of trouble,” Assistant State’s Attorney Renee Joy said of Taylor. “It all comes down to a video of the incident and a written statement, and when you compare the two, the statement is clearly an out-and-out lie.”
Taylor’s attorney, Robert Bonsib, said Taylor’s actions were justified “considering the totality of circumstances.”
“Police officers are forced to make split-second decisions,” Bonsib said. “The state seems to forget that [Dorm] had just assaulted and taken down another police officer.”