No jail time for Pr. George’s Co. officer who hit suspect with cruiser

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – A Prince George’s County police officer who prosecutors said was guilty of “callous and lazy policing” by hitting a running suspect with his cruiser has been sentenced to probation and community service.

Juan Hernandez was convicted in May of second-degree assault, a misdemeanor, for striking the 22-year-old man as he fled from police through a field.

Friday, Circuit Court Judge Ingrid Turner sentenced Hernandez to two years supervised probation and 100 hours of community service, saying he had misused his power as a police officer.

Hernandez faced a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison, but Maryland sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender range between probation and six months behind bars.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Hernandez to three weekends behind bars, but the judge didn’t agree.

“We felt that he deserved some sort of jail time, given that a jury of his peers found him guilty of second-degree assault,” said Gina Ford, spokeswoman for Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.

Prosecutors said Hernandez’s life was not in danger as he chased the man in his car.

Police were investigating a report of a fight between three men and were checking the men for weapons when one of them ran. Hernandez followed the runner in his cruiser.

Dash cam video from the June 2016 incident shows the man running through a field and then flying onto the hood of Hernandez’s cruiser after being hit from behind.

“They have no right to make that determination about what’s going through an officer’s mind,” said John “Zeke” Teletchea, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, outside the courthouse. “He was chasing a suspect who was said to be armed.”

Before he was sentenced, Hernandez, who is married and the father of a young son and a college-aged stepson spoke briefly.

“Your honor, I still think this was an accident. I’m glad (the suspect) is OK,” Hernandez said.

An internal affairs investigation to determine whether Hernandez violated and policies or procedures is ongoing.

Hernandez’s attorney said his client will likely be fired from the Prince George’s police department “because he’s a liability.”

Hernandez, who has worked for the department for 11 years, left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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