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Man Had Blunt Force Injuries, Private Autopsy Finds

Man Had Blunt Force Injuries, Private Autopsy Finds

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 20, 2008; B02

An unarmed man who was fatally shot last month in Langley Park by an off-duty Prince George's County police officer also had blunt force injuries to his face and upper body, according to an autopsy arranged by his family.

Attorneys for Manuel de Jesus Espina's family said the autopsy supports accounts by three witnesses that Officer Steven Jackson, who was working as a security guard at an apartment complex, repeatedly beat Espina with his baton and fist before shooting him.

Injuries might be expected, however, given that police have said Jackson struck Espina with his baton during a struggle.

According to the autopsy, Espina, 43, suffered three lacerations, three contusions and a scratch to his face. Contusions and abrasions were also evident on Espina's arms, on the left side of his neck and near his right shoulder blade, according to the autopsy conducted by Vincent E. Hill.

Jackson, who police have said feared for his life when he fired his gun, required no medical treatment after the Aug. 16 encounter, according to a law enforcement source speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The source's information is corroborated by a recording of police communications reviewed by The Washington Post. A county police officer who arrived at the scene minutes after the shooting was asked by a dispatcher whether any officers were injured. "Negative," the officer said. "No injuries to officers."

Through a representative of his union, Jackson declined to comment. A county police spokesman said the department would not comment because an internal investigation is ongoing.

Police have said that Jackson was trying to arrest Espina after finding him drinking in an apartment building stairwell but that Espina resisted arrest and began to fight the officer. Jackson used pepper spray and his baton, but Espina continued to resist, and Jackson fired his gun after Espina's son arrived and joined the fray, police said.

Police charged Manuel de Jesus Espina Jacome, 26, with assaulting Jackson. His attorney, Thomas C. Mooney, said of the autopsy, "It suggests a brutal beat-down by the police officer."

Timothy F. Maloney, a Greenbelt lawyer who is preparing a civil lawsuit against Jackson on behalf of the Espina family, said the autopsy "is consistent with the eyewitness accounts that the officer badly beat Mr. Espina before he shot him."

State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey's office, which is also investigating the shooting, is awaiting autopsy results from the D.C. medical examiner. Espina was taken to Washington Hospital Center in the District after he was shot.

"We appreciate the cooperation of the Espina family and their attorney in providing medical records, details about their independent autopsy, names and contact information for witnesses," Ivey said.

Police have not said why Jackson, a four-year veteran of the police force, was trying to arrest Espina. Under Maryland law, police can issue a citation for drinking in public but cannot arrest someone for that offense.

The details of the police accounts of the shooting have varied. The day of the shooting, police said Jackson fired after the elder Espina reached for the officer's gun, and a police commander said Jackson alleged that the two Espinas tried to pull him into the apartment where he shot Espina.

The day after the shooting, police issued a news release saying that Jackson feared for his life when Espina tried to grab his baton.

Finally, the charging document filed against Espina Jacome, by Detective Eric Freeman, provides another version. Espina Jacome is charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest.

It says Espina was "violently struggling" while Jackson was trying to arrest him inside the apartment. Jackson had managed to get one handcuff on Espina when Espina Jacome pushed the officer from behind, knocking him into a couch, according to the document.

Espina and his son then took Jackson's baton from him, the charging document says.

Three witnesses -- Elvia Rivera, 23, Carlos Cruz, 33, and Espina Jacome -- said in interviews that Jackson beat the unresisting Espina inside the apartment. Espina Jacome has said he dropped to his knees moments before Jackson fired and pleaded with the officer to stop beating his father.






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