Traffic stop questions for shooting case officer
The Prince George's County police officer who fatally shot a Langley Park man testified Monday that, four months before the shooting, he slugged a motorist during a traffic stop only after the driver hit him first.
A police video of the incident, which was played for a Circuit Court jury considering a wrongful death lawsuit against Jackson and the county in connection with the shooting, showed Jackson yanking the motorist out of his vehicle and slugging him twice.
In the video, Jackson opens the driver's side door and pulls the motorist, Shawn M. Leake, out of the car. Almost immediately, Jackson makes a fist and slugs Leake in the face, then quickly slugs him again in the face, the video shows. Leake does not hit or appear to try to punch Jackson.
Before the video was shown to the jury, Daniel Karp, the attorney defending Jackson and the county against the lawsuit, asked, "[Leake] hit you first?"
"Absolutely," Jackson replied. "As soon as he gets out [of the car], he hits me in my face."
"I've seen the tape before," Jackson testified. "I can see where he hits me and my head goes back."
Attorneys for the relatives of Manuel de Jesus Espina convinced Circuit Court Judge Albert W. Northrop to let them question Jackson about the incident. The plaintiff attorneys allege that Jackson's fatal shooting of Espina is part of a pattern of behavior in which he becomes enraged and assaults and swears at people he encounters.
Jackson, 27, has not been criminally charged in the death of Espina, who was 43.
Jackson was moonlighting as a security guard when he fatally shot Espina on the afternoon of Aug. 16, 2008.
According to four plaintiff's witnesses, Jackson beat Espina, whom the officer outweighed by about 30 pounds, with his fists and metal police baton down two flights of stairs and into a basement apartment. Espina never resisted, the witnesses said.
Inside the apartment, the witnesses said, Jackson continued to beat Espina with his baton even though the man's eyes were closed and filling with blood, Manuel de Jesus Espina Jacome, the son of Espina, testified Monday.
Espina Jacome testified that he pushed his father onto a sofa to try to save him. As Espina struggled to his feet, Espina Jacome testified, Jackson stepped toward him, took out his gun, and fired a single shot into the man's torso. Espina Jacome's testimony is consistent with an account provided earlier in the trial by Elvia Rivera, an eyewitness to the shooting who lived in the apartment.
Jackson testified that he was menaced by a mob of six or seven men, including Espina and his son, inside the apartment. Espina and his son tried to take his baton, and when Espina reached for his gun, he fired, Jackson testified.
Jackson said he did not know where the additional four or five men came from or where they escaped to. He said they did not follow him and Espina into the apartment through the apartment's lone door, nor did they leave that way.
Jackson's encounter with Leake occurred on May 25, 2008, nearly four months before he shot Espina. In the videotape, Jackson asks Leake at least four times to get out of the car, then pulls him out and quickly punches him twice. After the second punch, Jackson grabs Leake around his neck and tackles him onto the street, and the two tumble out of camera range.
Jackson testified Monday that, during his encounter with Leake, he suffered a split lip which required four stitches. In the audio portion of the video, Jackson said, "You hit me in my [expletive] lip."
Leake replied, "I did not hit you, man. I was trying to get out of the car. My leg was stuck in the thing." In the audio portion, Leake continues to repeatedly deny hitting Jackson.
Jackson originally stopped Leake because there were Department of Motor Vehicles inquiries regarding Leake's insurance.
Jackson charged Leake with assaulting a police officer and two other offenses. In a charging document, Jackson wrote that Leake slugged him and tackled him. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Leake.
Jackson has not been charged with perjury in connection with the Leake incident.
The officer has also not been charged in connection with the Espina shooting. Prince George's prosecutors have said they are continuing to investigate the shooting.
Also on Monday, Jacques Ross, a 45-year-old developer from Beltsville, testified that Jackson became physically and verbally abusive to him during an encounter in July 2008.
Ross testified that his Mercedes had been impounded while his brother was driving it.
Ross said he drove his brother into College Park to try to find out where the car was towed to, and saw an officer -- Jackson -- doing work on a laptop computer near a fire station.
Ross testified that he pulled over to ask Jackson for help finding the Mercedes. Ross said Jackson was at first polite, but became angry when he saw Ross's brother in the passenger seat. Jackson began screaming obscenities at his brother, Ross testified.
Ross said Jackson then tried to pull him out of the driver's side, even though his seatbelt was still on. Ross said he fell to the ground, and Jackson dragged him away from the car, Ross said. Ross claimed Jackson said "I'm going to [bleep] you up bad."
In his testimony regarding the encounter with Ross, Jackson denied physically or verbally abusing Ross or his brother. Jackson testified that he had ordered the Mercedes to be impounded because its registration was suspended. When he saw the man who was driving the Mercedes -- Ross's brother -- return, he became scared, ran to the back of his cruiser with his gun out, and called for backup, Jackson testified.
"It looked like they were shuffling around," Jackson testified. "I was scared. I didn't know what was happening."
| March 2, 2011; 11:05 AM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse, Ruben Castaneda, Updates | Tags: Prince George's County police brutality, police misconduct
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