BENTON -- A Sikeston man will serve no less than 17 years in prison for taking a shot at a Sikeston police officer.
Gregory Earl Stevenson, 32, was sentenced by Circuit Judge Gary P. Kramer of Hillsboro in Jefferson County to 20 years for first degree assault of a law enforcement officer and 20 years for an armed criminal action charge. The sentences are to run concurrent.
Stevenson was convicted of the charges on March 9 by a Jefferson County jury.
The maximum range of punishment on the class A felony of first degree assault of a law enforcement officer is 10 to 30 years in prison or life.
"The 20-year sentence should send a message to anyone thinking of shooting at a police officer," said Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul R. Boyd about Monday's sentencing. "Mr. Stevenson will have to spend 17 years in prison before being eligible for parole because assault of a law enforcement officer in the first degree is a felony in which 85 percent of the sentence is to be served prior to being eligible to be released on parole."
The state produced evidence during the trial that at about 11 p.m. Oct. 26, 2004, Public Safety Officer Brian Dover attempted to make contact with the occupants of a pickup truck that was sitting in the middle of the road on Coleman facing north with its lights off.
As Dover approached the vehicle, it took off at a high rate of speed with its lights still off.
The vehicle traveled along several Sikeston streets and ran several stop signs before stopping in the yard of 1003 Ruth.
Using his patrol vehicle, Dover attempted to block the driver in the truck after which the driver and passenger both fired weapons in Dover's direction.
Authorities determined the driver shot a .25 caliber firearm into the passenger compartment of the police cruiser while the passenger shot a 9 mm pistol into the ground.
As Dover had blocked a normal exit from the suspect's vehicle with his patrol vehicle, the driver left a palm print and finger print on the police vehicle as he crossed its hood while leaving the pickup truck.
The SEMO Crime Lab determined prints were from Stevenson so he was identified as the driver. The passenger was determined to be Stacy Townsend of Sikeston.
During the trial, Tonya Rogers of New Madrid identified Stevenson as the person who borrowed the pickup truck from her.
Stevenson's co-defendant, Townsend, also testified that it was Stevenson who was driving, bounded off the police vehicle and shot into the police cruiser.
A sentencing advisory report, which is the new version of the pre-sentence investigation, was presented to the court, the state and Stevenson.
This report, which is compiled by probation and parole officers who work under the supervision of the Missouri Department of Corrections, is designed by a state-appointed commission to regularize sentencing practices of judges and the sentences of defendants throughout the state.
"As to motivation behind the SAR, consider that the probation and parole officers have been informed not to increase the prison population (recommend light sentences/probation) and the rural judges have been criticized by the Department of Corrections for giving sentences that are too stiff," Boyd noted.
The SAR advised the court to give Stevenson a 12-year sentence and Stevenson asked for this sentence from the Judge.
Stevenson, however, is a prior and persistent felony offender and had resisted arrest by force in the past, according to Boyd.
"I requested that the court not follow the SAR as it was not a reflection of rural community values on crime but skewed toward defendant's based on city sentencing practices," he said. "I asked the court to send a message to Mr. Stevenson and those who might think like Stevenson that aggression toward law enforcement officers would not be tolerated and sentence him to a minimum of 15 years on assault of the officer and five years on armed criminal action to be consecutive (total of 20 years) based on his history. The judge agreed and gave Stevenson 20 years on each count."
"We're really appreciative of the way Paul Boyd and the court system handled the case," said Capt. John Martin of the Sikeston DPS. "I'd like to acknowledge the hard work the detective division did to assist in the prosecution. We're very glad no one was injured and that a dangerous felon is off the streets."