Charges Dropped Against Man In Confrontation With Officer

Manuel de Jesus Espina Jacome at the Langley Park apartment where his father was fatally shot by a police officer.
Manuel de Jesus Espina Jacome at the Langley Park apartment where his father was fatally shot by a police officer. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)
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By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Prince George's County prosecutors have dropped charges against a Langley Park man who was accused of helping his father assault an off-duty county police officer before the officer fatally shot the father.

Police had charged Manuel de Jesus Espina Jacome, 26, with assaulting Officer Steven Jackson during an Aug. 16 confrontation in an apartment in Langley Park. Jackson shot and killed Espina's father, Manuel de Jesus Espina, 43, during the encounter.

Police have said that Jackson, who was moonlighting in his police uniform as a security guard, fired a single round into the elder Espina's torso because he was struggling with the father and son and feared for his life. Espina Jacome was charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest.

On Friday, the day Espina Jacome was to go on trial in District Court in Hyattsville, prosecutors dropped both charges.

Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, said prosecutors are continuing to investigate the actions of Espina Jacome and Jackson and will wait for the conclusion of the probe before deciding whom to charge.

Espina Jacome's mother, who was in the courtroom Friday to support her son, wept in relief when prosecutors dropped the charges, said Thomas C. Mooney, Espina Jacome's defense attorney.

Mooney said yesterday he was not surprised that prosecutors dropped the charges, given that Espina Jacome and two civilian witnesses dispute the police version of the confrontation.

"They cannot ignore the fact there are at least three witnesses who make Officer Jackson the perpetrator of a crime and vindicate Mr. Espina altogether," Mooney said.

Jackson, who is assigned to administrative duties pending an internal police investigation into his actions, did not return a phone call to his home.

Detective Vince Canales, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, which represents Jackson and most county officers, declined to comment and said Jackson would have no comment.

In interviews, Espina Jacome and two other civilian witnesses have said that Jackson used his fist and police baton to beat the unarmed, unresisting Espina in the apartment, occupied by friends of the Espina family.

Espina Jacome said that neither he nor his father assaulted Jackson. Moments before Jackson fired, Espina Jacome said, he dropped to his knees, clasped his hands as if in prayer and begged the officer not to shoot his father. Jackson fired nonetheless, said Espina Jacome and two other witnesses who were in the apartment.

Police said the trouble began when Jackson confronted Espina over an alcohol violation. The police account of the moments leading to the shooting has varied. Ultimately, police said Jackson was trying to arrest Espina, who was "violently struggling." Jackson got one handcuff on Espina when Espina Jacome pushed the officer from behind, knocking him into a couch, police said.

Espina and his son then grabbed Jackson's baton, and the officer fired, police have said.

Police have not explained why Jackson was trying to arrest Espina. Under Maryland law, police can issue a citation for drinking in public but cannot arrest someone for that.

Jackson was not injured during the encounter, according to a law enforcement source. Espina suffered blunt force injuries to his face and upper body, according to a private autopsy arranged by his family. Espina Jacome has said he was not injured.

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