Saying we cannot allow citizens to shoot police officers, a Lucas County judge on Thursday sentenced a North Toledo man to 47 years in prison for wounding a detective and firing at six Toledo police SWAT team members.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates imposed the lengthy prison term immediately after a jury found Jamaine Hill guilty on seven counts of felonious assault, each with firearms specifications, and one count of having a weapon while under disability.
Hill, 39, fired five shots at Officer Richard Kovacs and five other SWAT team members who were attempting to execute a no-knock search warrant at Hill's Caroline Avenue house just after 2 a.m. Nov. 16. One of the shots struck Det. Jason Picking in the face.
“I can't believe the restraint that our Toledo Police officers had in not shooting you,” Judge Bates told Hill. “We have shootings all over the country dealing with minorities, and there's always questions about whether they should have shot or not shot. I don't understand how the SWAT officers had the strength, when they were being shot at, not to fire back. You're lucky you're alive.”
Hill, who was handcuffed after the first guilty verdict was read, told the court as he did on the witness stand that he believed someone was breaking into his house, that he didn't know it was the police.
Still, prosecutors told the jury in closing arguments that Hill could not prevail on self-defense because police were at his home lawfully and because he created the situation by having a gun when a prior felony drug conviction prohibited him from having a firearm.
“He committed a felony before the officers stepped foot on his porch,” Frank Spryszak, an assistant county prosecutor, said in his closing argument. “Before they entered the house, he was already committing a crime. He was the subject of a search warrant — again he is creating the situation. The officers didn't create it.”
After the guilty verdicts were announced and Hill was sentenced, prosecutors embraced Detective Picking and his family, who were in the front row of the gallery. The detective, who is back to work but faces additional surgery, declined to comment.
The courtroom was filled with police officers and court deputies when the jury of 10 women and two men returned their verdicts.
“The jurors recognized the difficult job law enforcement has on a daily basis,” Toledo Police Sgt. Kevin Korsog said afterward.
The prosecution team was pleased.
“I think the evidence was clear, and the jury got it right. We're happy with their verdict,” said Dexter Phillips, an assistant county prosecutor.
Mr. Spryszak said prosecutors feared the message an acquittal would send to the community.
“It was a very important case because we were concerned that if we didn't get this result, it would set a dangerous precedent that it would be open season on police,” Mr. Spryszak said. “We took this case very seriously, and we put a lot of time and effort into it, and we got a great result.”
He said he hoped the verdict and sentence would send a message that this kind of gun violence will not be tolerated.
“There's too much violence in the streets right now,” Mr. Spryszak said. “Even nationwide there's a lot of violence, there are a lot of law enforcement officers that have been injured and lost their lives in the line of duty just in 2018. The violence has to stop.”
Toledo police Chief George Kral in a prepared statement said the guilty verdicts on all charges Hill faced will allow the department to move forward and continue healing.
“While this chapter is over, there is still a long road ahead for Jason’s physical recovery; and the emotional strain on all officers involved, as well as their family, undoubtedly remains...,” he said, in part. “Our officers know the risks inherent to police work and still go out every day and night to serve our city and for that I am proud.”
Defense attorney John Thebes said Hill intends to appeal, but he otherwise declined to comment afterward. He had asked the jury to put themselves in Hill’s place and imagine that it was not the police on his porch that night.
“While [police] were acting legally, so was he, because in his mind, in his heart, he believed he was being threatened,” Mr. Thebes said in his closing argument. “He wasn't. We know that now. He made a mistake.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.
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