Sign up for our free newsletter
Carlton Jones said he opened fire after Prince Jones Jr. tried to ram his vehicle a third time. Forensic evidence and witnesses say otherwise.
Almost two years have passed since an undercover Prince George’s County police officer shot and killed Prince Carmen Jones Jr., 25, an unarmed Howard University student. Shootings of civilians were by no means a new phenomenon within the Prince George’s force: Jones was the 12th person shot by department officers in 13 months and the fifth to die.
Even so, the Jones shooting was exceptional—not only for the circumstances that preceded it but also for the national outrage that followed.
According to authorities, in the early hours of Sept. 1, 2000, two undercover Prince George’s County police officers driving separate unmarked vehicles followed Prince Jones in his black 1998 Jeep Cherokee for about 16 miles from Hyattsville, Md., through the District and into Virginia, where Prince Jones was going to see his fiancee, the mother of his then-10-month-old daughter. The officers were looking for a similar Jeep that was tied to a stolen police weapon.
One of the undercover cops, Cpl. Carlton B. Jones, followed Prince Jones to Spring Terrace, a residential street in the Sleepy Hollow section of Falls Church. There, Prince Jones got out of his Jeep and approached him. Carlton Jones identified himself as a police officer and flashed his gun, but no badge. Prince Jones got back into his Jeep and rammed it into Carlton Jones’ Mitsubishi Montero. Carlton Jones then shot at Prince Jones 16 times. With six bullets in his body—five in his back—Prince Jones managed to drive off a short distance before crashing into some shrubs and a parked car a few feet from his fiancee’s home. He died later at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
Prince Jones’ family and fiancee led the public backlash, publicly questioning the police’s account of the shooting and demanding that the FBI and Justice Department step in and investigate. Jones’ death also galvanized the campus of Howard University, where he was just three months from finishing his undergraduate degree; he was about to accept a commission in the Navy. The student activism started with a Sept. 8 rally on campus and culminated in a Sept. 13 protest outside Justice Department headquarters, demanding “Justice for Prince.”
On Sept. 15, then-Vice President Al Gore, in a campus address, called Jones’ death “a great loss” and asked for a moment of silence.
Then came the usual round of investigations:
* The first probe officially wrapped up on Oct. 23, 2000, when Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Robert F. Horan announced that he would not prosecute Carlton Jones. The officer, Horan concluded, had acted in self-defense.
* A Justice Department investigation looking into whether Carlton Jones had violated Prince Jones’ civil rights ended with a July 6, 2001, finding that cleared the officer, citing insufficient evidence to justify federal charges. A Justice Department investigation of whether the Prince George’s County Police Department is guilty of a pattern of civil-rights violations, however, is ongoing.
* On April 18, 2002, an administrative trial board of the Prince George’s County Police Department cleared Sgt. Alexandre Bailey, Carlton Jones’ supervisor and the second officer who tailed Prince Jones the night of the shooting, of any wrongdoing in Prince Jones’ death. Only the Internal Affairs Division of the Prince George’s County Police Department has yet to release its findings on the shooting.
The myriad investigations have yet to shed any additional light on what happened in Sleepy Hollow the morning of Sept. 1, 2000. Instead, the probes have left behind a trail of unanswered questions.
Long ago, Mabel Jones, Prince Jones’ mother, decided that she couldn’t rely on the authorities to give her a full account about what had happened to her son. So she filed a wrongful-death suit last December against Carlton Jones, Alexandre Bailey, former Prince George’s County Police Chief John S. Farrell, and the county in federal court in Washington. In her suit, Mabel Jones alleges that Officers Jones and Bailey were responsible for her son’s death, employed excessive force, and violated his civil rights. She further alleges that Farrell and the county contributed to Prince Jones’ death by not adequately training and supervising its police officers. She is seeking $145 million in compensatory and punitive damages. No trial date has been set.
The court action has unearthed key documents that might further illuminate the events of Sept. 1, such as records of the Prince George’s County Police Internal Affairs investigations, department personnel files, and the investigation into Derrell Gilchrist and Chenier Hartwell, the suspects Carlton Jones said he was pursuing the night of the shooting. These documents are not public, however, because of a confidentiality agreement between lawyers for the plaintiff and the defense.
Mabel Jones’ attorneys, Ted J. Williams and Gregory L. Lattimer, have taken nine depositions, and county attorneys have taken four, for a total of 32 hours of depositions. The lawyers questioned the major players in the case, including Carlton Jones, Alexandre Bailey, and Fairfax County Detective David Wayne Allen, the lead investigator into the fatal shooting. Some of the depositions are also covered under the confidentiality agreement. Lattimer and Williams allowed the Washington City Paper to closely review several of the depositions that are not.
Collectively, the depositions yield the most comprehensive chronicle to date of the events that led up to Prince Jones’ death. But they also offer conflicting accounts of the night’s events, with inconsistencies between the testimony of different eyewitnesses. The inconsistencies are summarized as follows:
* Forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony collected by Fairfax County, as described by Allen, indicate that Carlton Jones began firing at Prince Jones earlier than he stated publicly through his attorney and in his deposition.
* In his deposition, Carlton Jones said he didn’t recall firing his weapon. The county intends to call an expert witness, William Lewinski, a Ph.D. in police psychology, to testify that Jones’ memory lapse was the result of his having been in a high-stress situation. Yet, at a subsequent point in the statement, Carlton Jones narrated how he was positioned as he was firing his gun.
* Depositions by two of Prince Jones’ friends, Vernon L. Robertson Jr. and Helena Johnson, who were with him at different points that night, raise questions about the long-distance pursuit undertaken by Bailey and Carlton Jones.
* After the pursuit entered Sleepy Hollow, Prince Jones surprised Carlton Jones by pulling out of a driveway on Spring Terrace. Differing accounts of what happened next call into question Carlton Jones’ claim that he did not spark the confrontation with Prince Jones that led up to the shooting.
* In their depositions, Bailey and Jones disagreed over who initiated the surveillance that night. Bailey said Jones did. Jones said Bailey did.
* Bailey said he and Jones became separated as they crossed the Potomac into Virginia and that he kept Jones abreast of his location by radio. Jones said Bailey was behind him the whole way.
What follows is as full a recounting as possible, based on the depositions of Carlton Jones, Bailey, Allen, Fairfax County Detective Chester L. Toney Jr., Robertson, and Johnson, of the night Prince Jones Jr. died.
The night of Aug. 31, 2000, Cpl. Carlton B. Jones, then 32, showed up for duty at his Hyattsville station house on Rhode Island Avenue wearing a T-shirt and jeans.
His supervisor, Sgt. Alexandre Bailey, then 37, told him when he arrived that they’d be following up on a tip that they might find Derrell L. Gilchrist, then 24, and Chenier Hartwell, then 26, two alleged drug dealers whom they’d been investigating for the past two-and-a-half months, in D.C., around Georgia Avenue and Kennedy Street NW.
In the first of several inconsistencies between his Aug. 8, 2001, deposition and Bailey’s deposition, Jones said that Bailey initiated the surveillance in the District and that he felt he had no choice but to follow orders. Bailey, by contrast, in a June 5, 2001, deposition, suggested that it was Carlton Jones who initiated the surveillance. “We were starting to rap [sic] everything up at 2 a.m.,” Bailey said. “And Carl came to the hospital [where Bailey was executing a search warrant] and asked if I wanted to go see if we could check some addresses.”
Bailey and Jones both said the purpose of their surveillance was to find out where Gilchrist and Hartwell lived, so they could obtain the necessary warrants and eventually arrest the suspects at home. Bailey and Jones had already tried to arrest them on the street twice, without success. On one occasion, Gilchrist had led them on a high-speed chase in his black 1996 Jeep Cherokee before crashing through two fences at a Metro Transit Police K-9 training facility and abandoning his car at the Fort Totten Metro station, according to Bailey. On another occasion, Hartwell and Gilchrist had sped off in the Jeep, knocking over a police officer.
Bailey and Jones also wanted to search Gilchrist’s and Hartwell’s residences to retrieve a police gun that they suspected Gilchrist had either stolen or received in exchange for drugs. They knew he had the gun—which had been taken from a police officer’s parked car—because informants had told them that Gilchrist was running around Langley Park showing it off.
Sobered by the high-speed chase and the assault on one of their colleagues, Bailey and Jones said they had decided to switch to what Bailey called “low-key investigative techniques” to nab their targets. For example, when Gilchrist called Jones the day after the high-speed chase to report his Jeep stolen, Jones let him pick the vehicle up. Jones said in his deposition, “Upon consultation with my supervisors, it was determined that if we released the vehicle to him, we would at least know what type of vehicle Mr. Gilchrist is driving and it would be that much easier to further locate him in the future.”
By Aug. 31, however, Jones and Bailey’s surveillance had yet to locate where Gilchrist or Hartwell slept. So Jones and Bailey set out for Petworth to follow up on their informant’s tip. According to Jones, they left between midnight and 1 a.m. on Sept. 1. Jones pulled off in a silver Mitsubishi Montero with D.C. plates. Bailey drove off in a green Chevrolet Silverado. Both men had two radios, one that fed to a county dispatcher and one 800-megahertz radio that they used to communicate with each other. They also had personal cell phones.
Carlton Jones said he set up his surveillance that night near 5th and Kennedy Streets NW. While there, Jones said, he spotted a black Jeep with Pennsylvania plates. Jones testified in his deposition that he’d never seen Gilchrist’s Jeep with anything but Maryland plates. Still, the Jeep with the Pennsylvania tags piqued his interest, he said, because he watched it circle the block two or three times before it headed down Kennedy Street toward Missouri Avenue. On a small, white piece of paper, he jotted down the plate number to run later.
The surveillance otherwise was uneventful at first. But Jones said that after a while, he started to feel uncomfortable because people were beginning to notice him. Though he said he was familiar with Petworth as a District native, he wasn’t doing a good job of melting into the background that night. At least not while sitting in his shiny silver SUV staring out his window.
So, Jones said, he radioed Bailey to say he was going to go check out an address in Hyattsville, on 16th Avenue. According to Bailey, an informant had told them that Hartwell might be living in a certain apartment complex off that street. Jones said he hadn’t been at his next stop long when he saw the black Jeep with the Pennsylvania plates for a second fateful time.
He said the Jeep pulled up and stopped briefly in front of the apartment building he was staking out. The driver looked around, he said, then pulled up to the corner, made a left, and parked in one of the first few parking spaces. Jones recalled that he then saw the driver, a tall black man of medium build with close-cropped hair, step out of the Jeep.
Therein lies another discrepancy in the accounts of that night: Carlton Jones said in his deposition that the driver of the Jeep was alone—a fact that he was able to ascertain when the Jeep’s interior light went on. That contention, however, contradicts a statement by Vernon Robertson, who said in a Sept. 19, 2001, deposition that he was with Prince Jones when they arrived at the home of Robertson’s then-girlfriend, Helena Johnson, at the Cypress Creek apartment complex, off 16th Avenue and Chillum Road.
Carlton Jones said the driver of the Jeep walked to the back side of the apartment building he was watching. Carlton Jones added that, though “there was a lot of moving in the shadows,” from what he saw, the driver “could fit” the description of Gilchrist.
According to news reports, Gilchrist is 5-foot-6 and weighs 230 pounds, and Hartwell is about 5-foot-9. Prince Jones was 6-foot-2 and weighed about 200 pounds.
At some point while Carlton Jones was on 16th Avenue—he said he couldn’t remember exactly when—he called the Pennsylvania tags into the dispatcher. Jones said the tags came back to a Jeep registered to a woman in Pennsylvania. The woman’s name, according to Allen’s July 17, 2001, deposition, was Mabel Jones.
Jones radioed Bailey about the Jeep from 16th Avenue. According to Bailey’s deposition, Jones told him: “‘Hey, I’ve got a black Jeep Cherokee with tinted windows with Pennsylvania tags on it.’ He said, ‘I saw it in the area earlier and it’s down here by Chillum Road now.’”…So he came over the radio and says that he was behind it and that it was pulling into a parking lot.”
Bailey said he then left Petworth and started heading in Carlton Jones’ direction. But at the same time, Carlton Jones gave up on his stakeout and began making his way back to the station house. In his deposition, Carlton Jones said he had decided to check for the Jeep on a subsequent evening.
That version of the stakeout, however, differs from the one in Allen’s July 17, 2001, deposition: “He’s looking—the vehicle parks. He’s looking for a place to set up a surveillance on this vehicle, and by the time he finds a suitable spot, the vehicle is gone.”
Allen’s account is more similar to Bailey’s. In his deposition, Bailey said that about two minutes after Jones first told him about the Jeep, Jones radioed to say he’d lost it.
As at several other points in the hours to come, the surveillance could have ended. In his deposition, Bailey said he suggested that they go back to the station. But, Jones said, Bailey radioed soon after, saying he’d spotted the Jeep shortly after he turned onto Chillum Road. Bailey testified that he took note of the Jeep because he had heard Jones call out the plate number over the county radio. Bailey also said he didn’t remember hearing the result of Jones’ inquiry regarding the tags. Not that it mattered: Bailey testified in his deposition that even if Jones had told him the tags were legal, it didn’t necessarily mean Gilchrist wasn’t the driver. “Well, we had a suspicion that it was Mr. Gilchrist driving it with bad tags,” Bailey said.
Bailey began to follow the Jeep. Jones, who had almost reached the station house, then turned around and sped back to join Bailey. He said Bailey didn’t order him to, but “it was kind of understood hurry your ass up and get back here.”
Robertson picked up Prince Jones from his job as a trainer at the Prince George’s Plaza Bally’s around 10:30 p.m. that night, Robertson said in his deposition. He said he drove to Bally’s in Prince Jones’ 1998 black Jeep Cherokee.
That night, Johnson was baby-sitting Prince Jones’ daughter, Nina. Before heading to the Cypress Creek complex to get Nina, though, Robertson suggested stopping for a beer at the Macombo Lounge, on Georgia Avenue NW, just below Jefferson Street. “[Jones] said, well, okay. He didn’t really drink, but he said, why not?” Robertson recalled.
After hanging at the Macombo for a couple of hours, Robertson estimated, they left for Hyattsville. In her Nov. 20, 2001 deposition, Johnson recalled waking up at 1:15 a.m. to let Robertson and Prince Jones in. Robertson said he fixed some food, and then the three of them watched television and chatted.
Prince Jones then spoke with his fiancee, Candace Jackson, then 22, a couple of times on the phone. After the second call, Prince Jones said he wanted to go see her at her home. In their depositions, Johnson and Robertson both remembered telling Prince Jones to stay. It was late, they told him. But Prince Jones insisted. Johnson recalled that Prince Jones wanted to take Nina with him, but Johnson told him the girl was asleep. So Prince Jones set out alone.
Carlton Jones caught up with Bailey and the Jeep around 4th Street and New York Avenue NW, by the 3rd Street Tunnel to I-395. Around there, they switched up, with Jones taking the lead.
Almost as soon as they crossed the Potomac, however, things started to go wrong. The two said they began to lose radio contact. And they became separated.
Marking another discrepancy between Bailey’s and Carlton Jones’ accounts, Carlton Jones said in his deposition that Bailey told him he was right behind him the whole way. But Bailey testified in his deposition that he lost the Jeep and the Montero as he crossed the 14th Street Bridge.
Bailey said Jones radioed to tell him that he was following the Jeep onto Route 50 westbound. Bailey, however, missed the turn to get to Route 50. He said he decided to head out to the Beltway and get on Route 50 going east to catch up with his partner that way. Bailey said he kept Jones abreast of where he was:
I said, “I’m coming towards you,” so [the Jeep driver] seems like he’s just taking this for a ride is basically what I thought.
I said, “What do you think?”
[Carlton Jones] said, “You’re probably right.”
And then I said, “Well, I’m coming up 50 East, you’re coming up 50 West. We shouldn’t be too far apart now.”
On Route 50, both men said, their radios began to cut out. Jones testified that he initially called Bailey on his cell phone. Bailey said that it was he who called Jones.
At this point, Prince Jones may have realized that he was being followed. Carlton Jones testified in his deposition that, while he was following the Jeep on Route 50, the Jeep’s driver “started to speed up and slow down, what we call cleaning himself, and I had to back off a little bit further so that I didn’t end up with him.”
Carlton Jones testified that he then relayed the Jeep’s maneuvers to Bailey: “I told Sergeant Bailey that it looked like he might be trying to clean himself.”
Jones said he and Bailey considered calling off the surveillance. “I discussed with him that I really didn’t know exactly where I was going at this point in time, and, you know, at what point do we decide to just let it go or just cut this off?” Jones stated in his deposition. He said it was Bailey who thought they should keep going: “Initially he responded let’s give it a little while more and we’ll just turn around.”
Soon after Prince Jones passed Route 7, he made a U-turn so that he could turn on to Beechwood Lane, the street Candace Jackson lives on. Carlton Jones radioed Bailey to say he was going to turn around, as well. Bailey’s deposition reads:
Just as we’re getting ready to determine—we’re discussing whether or not we’re going to break the surveillance off or not, Jonesee said, well—I said, “You’re getting ready to make a U-turn,” and I said “Oh, so you’re heading back towards the District.” He says, “Yeah.”
He says, “He’s definitely making a U-turn now.”
I said, “Good, because I’m coming up east and I should be able to pick him up here in a minute. Just let me know where you’re at.”
And then Jonesee says, “Bye, I’ve got to go.” And I said, “Okay,” and then we hung up.
For the next 10 minutes, Bailey testified, he tried to reach Jones on his cell phone, but Jones didn’t answer.
Carlton Jones testified in his deposition that soon after he turned off Route 50, he couldn’t see the Jeep anymore. Carlton Jones pulled up to the intersection where he had last seen the Jeep turn, but he didn’t see any taillights. He said he then drove up to the next intersection and still saw no taillights. Then, as he looked left, he said, he saw the outline of a Jeep in the first driveway. Carlton Jones turned left, and, he said, as he passed the Jeep, looking to see if it was the one he’d been following, the Jeep’s lights came on and the Jeep drove toward him. Which direction the Jeep was facing, he could not recall in his deposition.
“And at that point in time I was thinking, if you pardon my language, Oh, shit, you know, this is fucked up,” Carlton Jones said in
The Jeep and the Montero then passed each other. With his cover totally blown, Carlton Jones swung around to make a three-point turn.
In another discrepancy between his deposition and that of Detective Allen, Carlton Jones testified that he turned around so that “I could, one, get out of the way of the vehicle; and, two, so I could make a three-point turn and leave. The only way I knew to leave was the way that I had come in because I didn’t know the neighborhood.”
Yet in his interview with Jones, Detective Allen apparently got a different impression. Allen said he believed Carlton Jones turned around so that he could keep following Prince Jones. In his deposition, Allen stated:
He follows Prince Jones back into the subdivision there, and as he comes up over the hill on Beechwood Lane, the Jeep is gone, nowhere to be seen. He stops, looks straight ahead. He doesn’t see it. Looks to the right, doesn’t see it. And as he looks to his left in a driveway, the first driveway that he sees there, he sees what he believes to be the outline of a Jeep but the lights are off, so he drives past it. He figures at this point the guy’s made my surveillance. I’m burned. I might as well just openly and blatantly follow him to see if he takes me where he’s going to, you know, sleep or stay or live or whatever.
Whatever his intent, Carlton Jones didn’t get to complete the reverse leg of his three-point turn. Carlton Jones testified that Prince Jones, who had pulled up toward the stop sign at the corner, threw his Jeep in reverse and stopped within inches of the Montero’s driver-side door. Carlton Jones said that while he was thus pinned inside his SUV, a tall, slender male figure got out of the Jeep and ran toward his door.
Carlton Jones said in his deposition that he couldn’t make out the driver’s face or hands because the red taillight of the Jeep was in his face. But seeing the outline of the person, Carlton Jones apparently realized that the driver wasn’t Gilchrist. “He was closer to—he was approximately five-eleven to six foot, which is closer to Mr. Hartwell’s description,” Carlton Jones said in his deposition.
Carlton Jones said the next thing he did was pull out his gun and yell, “Police, get back in the car” two times. He said the driver then got back in and pulled up again toward the corner.
Carlton Jones said he initially thought the Jeep was about to drive away when it backed up and rammed him. He stated in his deposition:
I’m trying to calm myself down because I was in a little bit of shock, if you will. I put my weapon back in my pants, tried to put it back in the holster, and I started to—I’m not sure what I was starting to do or anything. I was surprised when I saw and heard the engine racing and the vehicle striking me.
Carlton Jones said in his deposition that he was trying to manipulate his gear shift and seat belt buckle with no success when the Jeep pulled up a little farther, then rolled back and collided with the Montero a second time. Carlton Jones said he tried again to shift and unbuckle his seat belt when he saw the Jeep pull up even farther; then he saw the reverse lights of the Jeep coming on and the vehicle backing toward him to ram the Montero a third time.
Carlton Jones testified that he wasn’t sure what exactly happened next. “The last recollection I have was reverse lights coming on and the vehicle coming back towards me. And when I gathered myself or my next recollection, I was in my seat and I was looking over my weapon,” he said in his deposition. “There was glass settling in my hair on the seat and across the entire front seat.”
He testified that the driver of the Jeep then sat up and drove away. “I remember thinking, Oh, shit, what just happened, figuring, fuck, I’ve just been in a shooting.”
After the shooting, Carlton Jones said in his deposition he set off to follow the Jeep again, then thought better of it and called 911. He didn’t see where the Jeep’s driver had gone. So while on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, he reloaded his gun. According to the June 22, 2001, deposition of Fairfax’s Detective Toney, Jones said on the 911 call that “I think I just shot a subject named Hartwell.” Then he put his gun in the front seat of the Montero, stood outside, and waited for the local police to arrive.
The only part of the evening in which Carlton Jones’ memory failed him was those few seconds in which he fatally shot Prince Jones. Under questioning during his deposition, he also couldn’t explain why he was able to pull a trigger 16 times but not able to unsnap his seat belt or shift gears to get away from the Jeep. “That would have to come from somebody who is familiar with and can explain in detail a person’s stress response,” he replied.
Worried that a jury would find Jones’ claims less than credible, county attorneys brought in Lewinski, an expert in police performance in high-stress situations, to evaluate the officer’s statements. Lewinski reviewed witness statements, Carlton Jones’ initial statement to police, Detective Allen’s report, the 911 tape, and the Prince George’s County Police Internal Affairs’ interview with Carlton Jones, among other documents. Lewinski also had his own, hourlong interview with the corporal.
In his Aug. 27, 2001, report, Lewinski concluded that it was reasonable for Carlton Jones to have been able to fire his gun but not unbuckle his seat belt or shift. Lewinski called unbuckling a seat belt and shifting an automatic gear shift “complex psychomotor task[s]” that aren’t as easy to perform under high stress as they are in daily life. However, he explained, Carlton Jones was trained to fire his gun in high-stress situations.
As for Carlton Jones’ forgetting exactly what happened when he fired his gun, Lewinski concluded that “Corporal Jone’s [sic] inability to report what happened or what he is doing, is at worst a symptom of inattentiveness and lack of awareness characteristic of performance in high stress situations.” According to Lewinski, Jones experienced “perceptual blockage.”
Carlton Jones’ own statements, however, are at odds with Lewinski’s findings. He apparently didn’t completely forget firing his weapon. Later in his deposition interview, when asked by Mabel Jones’ attorneys to explain the downward trajectory of some of the bullets, he replied: “Sir, I fired from my vehicle, and as I was firing, I was trying to get away from the door and away from the vehicle that was coming to strike me. I have no explanation for how he was shot.”
More glaring is the discrepancy between Carlton Jones’ statements about when he fired his weapon and what the forensic evidence showed.
Carlton Jones has maintained all along that Prince Jones rammed his Montero twice and was coming to hit his car a third time when he fired. It’s an account that was given to the press by Michael Leibig, Carlton Jones’ attorney until a few months ago. And the same version appeared in Carlton Jones’ deposition in Mabel Jones’ wrongful-death suit.
Yet eyewitness statements and forensic evidence as described by Allen indicate that Carlton Jones fired earlier than he has said.
In deposition, Lattimer walked through the sequence of events with Allen:
Q: Okay, so he pulls up and he rams again; is that right?
A: The second time, yes.
Q: And then what happens?
A: And as he’s coming back toward Carlton Jones, Carlton starts shooting at him.
Q: The second time?
A: Yes. After the first impact just prior to the second impact he shoots at him.
Q: Sixteen times?
Allen said the forensics expert had based his opinion on “the fact that there’s so much glass in the driver’s compartment of Carlton Jones’s vehicle—okay?—that the [rear] window had to have been broken prior to impact. So probably Carlton Jones started shooting on the way back, and then there’s the impact which blows all that glass all over Carlton Jones and into the front seat of the Montero.”
Forensic photos of the Montero show two impacts: one shallow dent in the driver’s side door and another larger, deeper dent next to the door, over the front wheel.
According to Allen, neighbor Juan Ballve saw the second impact. Allen’s deposition says, “[Ballve] then sees the second impact, and according to him he says as they’re engaged, he hears a burst of gunfire.” Ballve told investigators that the Jeep left the scene after the second crash.
Allen also summarized the statements of Nathan Ballve, Juan Ballve’s son, who was in a computer room in his house at the time of the shooting. Nathan Ballve told investigators that he heard screeching tires, an impact, more screeching tires, another impact, then gunshots. He then heard tires squealing again and saw a car driving down Beechwood Lane.
The Jeep eventually crashed into some shrubs and a blue Honda Civic that was parked in a driveway on Beechwood Lane close to Candace Jackson’s house. Prince Jones was found slumped over the wheel with six bullets in his body. He was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died later that morning.
Despite the discrepancies between Allen’s and Carlton Jones’ depositions, Allen’s findings convinced county prosecutor Horan not to bring charges against Carlton Jones. Allen said he believed Carlton Jones’ account because the officer’s statements during the investigation lined up with the forensic evidence.
The depositions, however, raise questions about Horan’s interpretation of the case. Horan made several public statements that do not match up with the accounts given by Allen, Carlton Jones, and Bailey in their depositions in the civil suit. They are:
* On Oct. 23, 2000, when Horan announced that he wouldn’t prosecute Jones, he told reporters that Jones and Bailey had “essentially decided to call [the surveillance] off,” when Jones turned onto Spring Terrace. However, Jones and Bailey never stated in their depositions that they definitely decided to call the surveillance off at that point.
* Horan, like Allen, contradicted Carlton Jones’ claim that after Prince Jones pulled out of the driveway, surprising Carlton Jones, the officer turned around because he didn’t know any other way out of the neighborhood. Horan told reporters that Jones deliberately turned around to continue following the Jeep.
* According to Allen, forensics showed that Carlton Jones began firing just prior to the second impact. However, Horan told reporters that Prince Jones rammed the Montero twice, spraying the officer with glass, and that Carlton Jones didn’t fire until the Jeep came at him a third time.
None of these inconsistencies are likely to change Allen’s or Horan’s mind about what happened that night. Not even the revelation that Carlton Jones had once before made a false statement to police caused Horan to have second thoughts about his decision not to prosecute. To them, the only explanation that makes sense is that Carlton Jones killed Prince Jones in an act of self-defense.
Mabel Jones and her attorneys have their own version of what happened that night. In her wrongful-death suit, she accuses Carlton Jones and Alexandre Bailey of conspiring to hurt whoever was driving the Jeep when they first saw it in Petworth. According to Mabel Jones’ theory, the two officers stalked the Jeep expressly so they could confront its driver. And it was Carlton Jones who tried to trap Prince Jones on Spring Terrace by putting his vehicle behind the Jeep. As Prince Jones tried to escape, the officer shot him.
Which scenario a jury buys may boil down to how credible it finds Carlton Jones. And his credibility is already suffering under the revelation that he made a false statement in connection with an alleged 1997 gun battle. Carlton Jones was disciplined for that false statement: According to an Aug. 13, 2001, deposition of former Police Chief Farrell taken by Lattimer and Williams, Farrell approved the 1999 recommendations of an administrative hearing board that Jones be demoted from corporal to police officer first class, reassigned from narcotics enforcement to patrol in another district, and barred from the promotion process for several months.
Jones’ record of bending the truth has already sunk the county’s case against Gilchrist. Last July, Prince George’s State’s Attorney Jack Johnson dropped two assault charges against Gilchrist because he believed that Carlton Jones, who had initiated the investigation into Gilchrist, was no longer a credible witness.
If Mabel Jones vs. Prince George’s County, et al., ever goes to trial, Lattimer and Williams will be sure to mine the inconsistencies between Carlton Jones’ statements and those of Fairfax investigators, witnesses, and his partner to raise further doubts about the officer’s credibility.
Mabel Jones and her attorneys even go a step further, arguing that the facts prove Horan and Justice Department officials wrong. “We say the facts support a criminal prosecution,” says Lattimer.
Lattimer doesn’t necessarily believe the facts that have come out of the case will convince Horan or Justice officials to reverse their decisions. But he hopes to force the public to question such decisions more often.
“What we’re going to do, what we hope to do, what is the mandate of [Mabel] Jones, is that we expose the truth and that by exposing the truth we can convert those still on the fence, who think we’re only saying the things we’re saying to enhance the verdict we’re going to get,” says Lattimer. “We want to convince people that the system we have in place isn’t working, that the people who are supposed to police this system aren’t doing their job.”
As an example, Lattimer notes that after Carlton Jones returned from paid leave in December, he was unofficially promoted. In his deposition, Jones said that though he retained the same rank and salary, he became de facto supervisor of his old narcotics unit because his higher-ups there had been transferred to other divisions. He said the job qualified as desk duty, on which he is to remain until Internal Affairs finishes its investigation. Carlton Jones was transferred to another desk job in the spring of 2001. According to court records, he was then called up for military duty in October and is stationed in Aberdeen, Md. Whether he will be disciplined for the shooting of Prince Jones won’t be known until after the Internal Affairs probe ends. Lattimer isn’t holding his breath: “There are no repercussions for what happened.” CP