Officer Liable in Student's Killing
Friday, January 20, 2006
A Prince George's County undercover narcotics police corporal who followed an unarmed college student to Fairfax County and fatally shot him more than five years ago was held responsible for his wrongful death yesterday by a civil jury that awarded $3.7 million in damages to the victim's daughter and parents.
After following 25-year-old Prince C. Jones Jr. from Chillum to Fairfax on Sept. 1, 2000, Cpl. Carlton B. Jones, sitting in an unmarked SUV, fired 16 shots at the student in his Jeep, hitting him eight times. Five of the shots hit Prince Jones (no relation) in the back.
The highly publicized shooting was the catalyst for a broad Justice Department investigation into allegations of brutality and racism by the county police department, which has been accused of excessive force for decades.
That investigation ended in January 2005, when the county announced an agreement with the Justice Department promising that the police department would take steps designed to reduce excessive force.
Terrell N. Roberts III, an attorney for Prince Jones Jr.'s daughter and father, noted after the verdict that the Fairfax commonwealth's attorney and the Justice Department declined to file charges against Carlton Jones, now 37, or even bring the case before a grand jury, and that Prince George's police said they found no wrongdoing by the officer.
"But a Prince George's jury concluded the officer was liable for wrongfully killing an innocent man," Roberts said. "I think some justice has been served here."
"Now he knows he did something wrong," Prince Jones Sr. said of Carlton Jones.
The jury found that Carlton Jones was negligent, used excessive force and could not have reasonably believed his actions were lawful. But it rejected a claim that the officer was liable for battery of Prince Jones, and it found that Prince Jones contributed to his death by his actions during the fatal encounter.
Carlton Jones declined to comment, saying he'd been ordered by the police department to say nothing. The corporal is now assigned to the technical services division.
The jury awarded $2.5 million in damages to Prince Jones's daughter, Nina, who is 6; $1 million to his mother, Mabel Jones; and $200,000 to his father. The jury award is one of the highest for a police misconduct lawsuit in county history.
The county paid $4.6 million in police misconduct verdicts and lawsuits in the fiscal year that ended last June; yesterday's verdict is about three-fourths of last year's total.
If the verdict stands, the county will have paid out more than $20 million in jury awards and settlements since 2000 in lawsuits alleging misconduct by county police officers.