Laurel family to file lawsuit against county police
Jan. 20, 2005
Ayesha Ahmad
Staff Writer

The family of a Laurel man who was shot and killed by a Prince George's County Police officer in November has notified the county of their intent to file a civil lawsuit against the department.

Javier Dubon, 40, and Sandra Dubon, 36, brother and sister of Melvin Dubon, 32, say the police used excessive force on Nov. 30, 2004, in shooting their brother in the chest.

"What the police did was an injustice... because of the way [they] killed my brother," Javier Dubon said, speaking in Spanish through a translator.

Mariana Cordier, an attorney with Rockville-based Cordier Law Offices, sent a letter to the county dated Dec. 17, 2004, informing it of their intent to sue for wrongful death, excessive force and negligence. The letter also states their willingness to reach a settlement with the department.

The county confirmed that it did receive the letter, but will not comment on the situation, said county Spokesman Jim Keary.

Cordier said the family's description of the shooting at their Laurel home was different from the information released by the police.

"At this point, obviously if this goes to a grand jury, we are concerned ... that it will be determined to be a clean shooting," she said. "My clients are very, very upset."

County police Spokesman Lt. Steve Yuen said the department's investigation of the shooting was ongoing and no further information was available.

State's Attorney Glenn Ivey's office is also investigating the shooting, but its investigation is not affected by any lawsuits, said Ivey Spokesman Ramon Korionoff.

"It's a sad situation and we understand why they're grieving," he added. "But we will conduct our investigation as we always do."

The three siblings lived together, with Sandra Dubon's 10-year-old daughter, in the Cherry Branch Townhomes complex on Cherry Lane in Laurel. Police said two officers responded to a report of a family dispute at about 9:48 p.m., and when they arrived they saw Javier and Sandra Dubon bleeding from lacerations. Melvin Dubon was approaching them while armed with a broken bottle, and Cpl. Amy Smith shot him in the chest, fearing for their safety, police reports said.

But Javier Dubon said his brother was holding a whole beer bottle from which he was drinking.

"In no moment did he have a broken bottle in his hand when the police got there," he said.

His hand and his sister's arm were cut unintentionally by a bottle that broke earlier, he said, when they tried to prevent Melvin Dubon from throwing the bottle during an argument before police arrived. That broken bottle was thrown in the trash.

Javier Dubon said he called the police to help calm his brother, but Melvin Dubon had calmed down when police arrived. The younger man got upset again upon seeing them, and, still holding the new bottle, threw his shoe at the door.

Police will not release the response time or the results of Melvin Dubon's toxicology report because of the ongoing criminal investigation, Yuen said.

Javier Dubon said the police told Melvin Dubon to stop, but shot him at the same time they said it. They would not let him back in the house to help his brother.

"It all happened quick," Javier Dubon said. "It's like they came only to shoot my brother... I was looking at my brother die and not able to do anything."

Police said Smith, who has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of their investigation, fired at Melvin Dubon. But the niece told lawyers she saw both officers fire, Cordier said.

The ambulance that came took Javier and Sandra Dubon first, the lawyer added. When the police departed, they left Melvin Dubon's boot and the whole bottle on the floor, both splattered with blood, as well as plastic tubing and bloody pads from the emergency medical technicians. Cordier said her office had possession of these items after the shooting, and police did not retrieve them until Dec. 30, 2004.

Javier Dubon said he worried that the police's version of the story made his brother, who was buried Dec. 6 in Boston where his parents live, look like "a delinquent." He said he couldn't understand why the police shot his brother in the chest. "There's no trust now... how can you call a police officer now if you need help?" he said. "Nothing's going to make my brother come back."