D.C. homicide detective testifies in son's killing in 1990 road rage case
Thursday, July 15, 2010
For 21 years, Ronald H. Jones Sr. patrolled the District's streets as a police officer and ultimately as a homicide detective. Jones met with scores of grieving family members as he tried to track down killers.
On Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, Jones took the witness stand, just as he had so many times during his career. But this time, he testified not as a sworn police officer working a case but as the grieving father of a homicide victim.
Jones sat just a few feet from the man police say shot and killed his son, Ronald Jones Jr., 22, during an argument with another driver two decades ago, just as the term "road rage" was entering the lexicon.
Ronald Jones Jr. had just graduated from Norfolk State University, where he was the football team's quarterback. He was driving with three friends July 13, 1990, when he got into an argument with another driver in the 400 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW. The younger Jones, who was preparing to enter Howard University's law school, was shot four times, once in the mouth, by the other driver.
For 12 years, there was little evidence. All authorities had was an artist's sketch of the shooter based on the description from a surviving witness in Jones's car.
Then in 2002, investigators got a break when a childhood friend of the alleged shooter told police that he had seen the argument. In 2008, police charged John B. Holmes, 40, of Silver Spring with second-degree murder.
The elder Jones had been retired from the force for two years when his son was killed. For weeks, and even months, after the slaying, he, his wife Deedra and other family members pleaded for help. They appeared on TV news shows and wrote an opinion column in The Washington Post a month after the shooting, pleading for help from District residents in identifying the shooter.
Time was running out. As any seasoned homicide detective knows too well, the more time that passes without an arrest, the slimmer the chances that the case will be solved.
So Jones, much to the dismay of his former colleagues and prosecutors, began investigating his son's killing.
"They didn't seem like they were doing anything on the case," Jones told Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines. Jones said he wanted to give the investigation a "jump-start."
After receiving a tip, Jones met a woman who lived in a Southeast Washington housing complex. She said she recognized the sketch from TV as a man who bragged to her that he had "gotten one" around the time of the shooting. She only had a nickname, "Poochie." Jones was able to track down the man's real name and gave the information to police. But he said police did not investigate. Jones then used his police contacts to get a picture of the man. He took the picture to police, hoping again for an arrest.
But detectives determined that the man Jones thought had killed his son was not the shooter.