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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Consider criminal's intent at sentencing

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

It's not often that a criminal does a favor for law enforcement officers. But in an ironic twist, that's exactly what Kenneth Tate Jr. did for the St. Louis police department.

Two years ago, Tate was involved in a vehicle accident in north St. Louis. But Tate had drugs and a weapon on him so he wasn't too interested in having police summoned to the accident site. When officer Christine Fernandez arrived, Tate simply walked away. When told to stop, Tate instead turned around and opened fire on police. Officer Fernandez was hit. Tate was also shot. Both have now recovered.

This week Tate entered a guilty plea and is awaiting sentencing.

As a result of the police wounding, all St. Louis police officers are now required to wear bulletproof vests. Before the shooting, using vests was optional. So in a bizarre way, Tate may have saved some lives of innocent police officers. I'm certain that was not his intention.

But let's focus on Tate for just a moment. Were he a better marksman, Tate would now be facing the death penalty for shooting a police officer - a female no less. His fate would not be in question. It would already be decided. So given this fact, I think Tate should be treated as if he had been successful that fateful day. If he is sentenced to anything less than life in prison it will be an injustice. But that sentence is very doubtful.

Tate had the full intention of killing the police officers chasing him. He was armed and dangerous and made the decision to take aim and fire at police. He should not be treated differently than if his shot had reached its mark. Fate, luck and the medical community saved the life of the police officer. And Tate should never walk a free man because his clear intent was to take a life.

Simply because a criminal is unsuccessful in their crime, the crime itself should not be diminished. Tate intended to kill someone that day and the judge should keep that in mind when deciding his sentence.

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