Tuesday, Oct 23, 2018
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Toledo man sentenced to 19 years for police shootout

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    Richard Morris is led out of the courtroom after being sentenced to 19 years on Monday.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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    Attorney Travelle Riley with defendant Richard Morris on Monday in Lucas County Court of Common Pleas in Toledo.

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    Richard Morris is led out of the courtroom after being sentenced to 19 years on Monday.

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    Judge Gene Zmuda speaking to defendant Richard Morris, Jr. before sentencing him to 19 years on Monday.

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Toledo Police Det. Norman Cairl said that by a stroke of luck, Richard Morris, Jr.’s gun jammed during a fire fight outside the Monroe Carryout Dec. 6.

Morris, 27, of the 1000 block of Markham Court already had fired one round from the backseat of a car toward Detective Cairl and Sgt. Duane Poole, undercover officers attempting to stop him and two others in a Chevy Trailblazer.

“Thankfully [his gun] jammed since I was already in a gun battle with the front seat passenger. The outcome could have been a lot worse had his gun not jammed,” Detective Cairl said in court Monday. “I believe the court should send a strong message that if you shoot at a police officer you'll be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and be sentenced to the maximum time allowed.”

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gene Zmuda did just that.

He sentenced Morris to the maximum term of 19 years in prison and imposed 11 months for violating the terms of his community control from a 2016 drug trafficking conviction.

While Morris argued he was “an unwitting participant,” the judge reminded him he said the same thing in 2016 when he pleaded no contest to trafficking in heroin.

“In December, 2017 you again found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, but this is far more serious,” Judge Zmuda said.

The judge said he was struck by how “cavalier” Morris and his co-defendant, Jayvon Wynne, were about shooting a gun from a car even if, as they alleged, they didn't know they were firing at police.

“You don't want the record to reflect that you intentionally shot at a police officer,” Judge Zmuda said. “I understand that, but you intentionally shot at a person who happened to be a police officer.”

Defense attorney Travelle Riley told the court Morris played “a limited role” in the incident, that he did not have a history of violence, and was not wanted by police.

“He had no reason to intentionally shoot at anyone, including law enforcement,” Mr. Riley said. “He has the utmost respect for law enforcement.”

Morris apologized and said he was grateful the officers were not injured.

“I put myself in the backseat of that car and I became an unwitting participant in the situation and was forced to react in a way that I felt would preserve my life,” Morris said. “I made a terrible mistake, and I would like to apologize to everyone who was out there that night.”

He said Wynne had asked him to go to a memorial service for a friend who had been murdered the night before in strikingly similar circumstances – chased by a vehicle with tinted windows and boxed in as he and his friends were that night.

Prosecutors said undercover officers had been conducting surveillance at an Oregon hotel and had followed Morris, Wynne, and a third man to the carryout at 2829 Monroe St. There, officers surrounded the suspects' vehicle with their cars, prompting Wynne to fire two shots from the back seat and Morris to fire a shot from the backseat before bailing out.

Morris was running away when Sergeant Poole called out, “Police. Stop.” Morris then raised his gun, but it jammed. Sergeant Poole fired a single shot that wounded Morris.

Last month, Judge Zmuda sentenced Wynne, 23, of the 700 block of Blum Street, to 18 years in prison for his role. A third co-defendant, Phillip Overton, 22, of the 1200 block of Mason Street has a final pretrial hearing Aug. 15.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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