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D.C. officer was allegedly at planning of fatal holdup

By Paul Duggan and Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 17, 2009; B01

An on-duty D.C. police officer charged with murder and accused of acting as a lookout in a street robbery gone fatally wrong also was present during the planning of the holdup and drove some of the participants to the crime scene, authorities said in a court affidavit.

Officer Reginald Jones, charged with felony murder in the Dec. 1 robbery in Southeast Washington, was parked a short distance from the shooting that night in a marked patrol car, according to an affidavit made public Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court. When shots were fired and a witness ran toward the police cruiser seeking help, Jones drove off "and left the area," the affidavit says.

The robbery victim, accused of being a drug dealer, survived a bullet wound. But police said the group of assailants included a 19-year-old man who fired an apparently errant shot that killed his father, an accomplice in the holdup.

Jones, 40, a six-year member of the force, is not accused of pulling the trigger. However, because he is accused of playing a role in the robbery, in the 4300 block of Fourth Street SE, he can be held legally culpable for the fatal result, authorities said. On Wednesday, a Superior Court judge ordered Jones, of Upper Marlboro, held without bail pending a Jan. 5 preliminary hearing.

The affidavit says Jones, a uniformed member of the department's gun-recovery unit, shooed away loiterers who might see the crime by driving the patrol car through the courtyard of a housing complex in Washington Highlands shortly before the robbery occurred there.

"The worst thing an officer can do is betray the public trust," D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in announcing Jones's arrest Tuesday night. "In this case, the officer went far beyond that. He did so carrying our badge and wearing our uniform."

The unit to which Jones was assigned is part of the police Narcotics and Special Investigations Division. On Wednesday, reacting to Jones's arrest, Lanier transferred several supervisors in the division to less prestigious patrol commands, two police sources said.

The holdup victim, Tyrone D. Herring, 45, was charged with possessing cocaine with intent to distribute after police allegedly found 31.4 grams of crack in his pants while he was being treated at a hospital. Investigators said he told them that he was robbed of nearly $5,000.

Herring said $700 was in his pants pocket and about $4,000 was in the console of his car.

In court affidavits, police said Jones was present Nov. 30 at an auto detailing shop in Suitland when several men planned the robbery. Jones drove at least two of them to the housing complex in his cruiser on the night of the crime, police said.

They said Herring told them that he was walking along Fourth Street, near where his black Infiniti was parked, shortly before 9 p.m. when several men with guns accosted him, demanding money. As the robbers tried to force him into his car, Herring told investigators, he began to struggle because he feared he was about to be killed.

Police said one of the alleged robbers, Arvel Crawford, fired a shot that hit his father, Arvel S. Alston, 40, in the right side.

"What the [expletive] are you doing?" Alston yelled, according to Herring. Crawford then allegedly fired a second shot, wounding Herring, before he and others involved in the holdup fled. Alston was pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour later. Police said he was carrying most of the robbery proceeds, more than $4,200 in cash.

Besides Jones, Crawford and at least two other men have been charged with murder.

Alston, who was a parolee, was convicted of murder and other charges in Prince George's County in 1990 and served 17 years of a 25-year term before his release in 2007, authorities said.

On Wednesday, friends and relatives of all the participants filled a courtroom as Jones and Crawford made their initial appearances before a D.C. judge. Uniformed officers, their badges on chains around their necks or pinned to their chests, stood along a wall, watching as one of their own was ushered before the bench in leg shackles.

Jones, in a bright red sweat shirt, stood about a foot taller than Crawford, who wore a black jacket and jeans.

Crawford's court-appointed attorney, Diane Lepley, argued that he should be released and that the only witness to the shooting was a "known drug dealer," a reference to Herring. Magistrate Judge Richard Ringell disagreed. "There's more than just that," he said. Jones's attorney, Stuart Johnson, asked Ringell to release Jones under close supervision.

But prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, chief of the homicide unit in the U.S. attorney's office in the District, argued that Jones should be held without bail primarily because he is a police officer. "He poses a unique danger to our community," Kirschner said. "As a police officer, sitting in his car, he allowed this to go on."

Arthur McKay, Jones's neighbor, said Jones was a "really, really, really good neighbor" for the five or so years he lived in Upper Marlboro. About eight months ago, McKay said, Jones separated from his wife and moved out of their house, although he would come around to see his children.

"That blows me out the water," he said of Jones's arrest.

Jones graduated from the D.C police academy in 2004. WUSA (Channel 9) aired video of the event Tuesday, including a brief interview with Jones.

"I hope to be the chief and make a difference overall for the department and for the people that's coming on in the future behind me," he said then. He smiled broadly as a woman pinned his new badge to his uniform and gave him a kiss.

Asked why he had decided to become a D.C. police officer, he said, "I feel like it's in my heart, and it's something that I want to do, because I want to be that positive influence."

Staff writers Theola Labbé-DuBose, Clarence Williams and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

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