- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2000

''There is not sufficient evidence to charge Cpl. Carlton Jones with a crime," Robert F. Horan Jr., the Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney, said Monday about one of the most bizarre shootings in the county's history. Mr. Horan said Cpl. Jones, a Prince George's County officer, had a right to pursue his suspect, and feared for his life when the suspect rammed his vehicle and he, the officer, shot back in self-defense.

In short order, the shooting was a justifiable homicide. "I can really feel for the mother of Prince Jones," Mr. Horan said Monday. "She has a right to be outraged. Her son is dead." That is of little comfort to the family and friends of Prince Jones, the 25-year-old victim of the Sept. 1 shooting.

A snapshot of the turn of events: Cpl. Jones, 32, an undercover narcotics officer, and a fellow officer, believed Prince Jones and the sport utility vehicle he was driving, a black Jeep Cherokee, had been involved in two separate traffic stops over the summer. In those incidents, two officers had been assaulted, and the suspects had rammed their vehicles. So Cpl. Jones and the other officer followed Mr. Jones into Fairfax. Once in Fairfax, Prince Jones stopped his Jeep in someone's driveway and approached Cpl. Jones. The corporal drew his weapon and twice identified himself as a police officer, and Prince Jones got back in his Jeep. Instead of leaving the scene, Prince Jones rammed the corporal's vehicle. The corporal fired. Altogether, he fired 16 shots. Several struck Prince Jones, who died several hours later in a hospital.

"It is clear from the evidence," Mr. Horan said Monday, "that Cpl. Jones and Prince Jones did not know one another. Prince Jones was not the man for whom [police] were looking, and Prince Jones was not a suspect in the vehicular assaults on Prince George's County officers."

All of which is regrettable, but it doesn't explain why the suspect responded to a traffic stop by ramming the officer's car. Prince Jones' family and friends naturally remain upset. On Wednesday, several students from Howard University met with Bill Lann Lee, assistant U.S. attorney for civil rights, and said Mr. Lee has promised the Justice Department will conduct its own investigation. The family, meanwhile, is weighing a possible civil lawsuit.

That's the family's right, but the burden of such a suit, one would think, would be to prove either that the suspect didn't really ram the officer's car with his own or that even if he did, the officer didn't really fear for his life. Given Mr. Horan's findings to the contrary, that burden may be a heavy one.

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