Guilty plea from man who shot at police

Joseph Dudley

A Beaumont man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday, July 15, for shooting at a Beaumont police officer after a brief chase in November 2011.

Joseph Matthew Brooks Dudley pleaded guilty to attempted capital murder Monday in Judge John Stevens’ Criminal District Court. Dudley was implicated in at least two robberies in the days prior to shooting at police officer Michael Jones, who’s close brush with death helped to implicate Dudley.

“That’s the only time I’ve had to fire my firearm,” Jones said after Dudley was sentenced. “I was two years on the force when that happened. Some officers go 30 years and never pull their gun or fire. Two years in, I’m having to.”

As he stood in front of Judge Stevens, Dudley’s defense begged the court for mercy, pointing to Dudley’s troubled childhood. Dudley’s defense argued he had been on the streets with his brother since he was 13 years old and was scarred by his mother, who was put on trial and later acquitted on charges of killing her husband, Dudley’s stepfather. Dudley is now 19.

“Everything kind of went downhill from there,” Dudley’s defense argued.

While living on the streets, Dudley did whatever he could to survive, according to his defense.

“For basically a few years, they were living in abandoned homes and abandoned cars,” Dudley’s defense said. “During that time, they’d see a car door open and reach in and get something out, whether it be money or food, or whatever.” Judge Stevens seemed empathetic, saying his court deals with defendants whose lives will be forever altered by irresponsible parenting. This did not excuse Dudley’s actions, Stevens said.

“If the police officer had been killed, you’d be looking at two choices: life without parole or the death penalty, if you were found guilty,” Stevens said. “That’s how serious it is under the law to fire at a police officer, much less any- one, but a police officer represents all of us, including you. You shot at someone who was serving you.”

Jones gave his account of the events that night after Dudley’s sentencing, saying he had responded to an attempted auto burglary by someone in a vehicle matching the description of Dudley’s near Virginia and Fourth streets.

“He heads to an area that he knows. ... After that, he bails out of the car. When he bails out, you can clearly see in the video he was brandishing a very large firearm (handgun). As he’s getting out, the vehicle is still running,” Jones said. “It actually dead-ends into a fence, and he makes it to the fence line and jumps the fence. I get out and give him clear commands, show me his hands. Of course, he’s already on the other side of the fence. At that point he starts firing. So I just crouched down and started returning fire.” Jones said Dudley fired at least six shots at the two-year officer, who said he returned fire at least three times.

Jones and other officers were familiar with Dudley, Jones said. “He’s popular,” Jones said. “I’ll put it that way.”

Having received only 20 years for a crime that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison or death should he be convicted, Jones said Dudley got off easy.

“With his kind of record and history and temperament, would I like to have seen more? Sure,” Jones said. “I mean, he holds nothing against displaying a firearm and trying to shoot at a cop.”

Prosecutor Pat Knauth said Officer Jones survived a brush with death after watching the dashcam video of the incident.

“You can see the gun go off. You can see the flashes,” Knauth said. “Mike was lucky.”

Dudley said he regretted his actions.

“My past is no excuse for the actions that I took, but I am remorseful for what I did,” Dudley said to Stevens. “There’s basically no excuse for what I did, and I take full responsibility.”

After professing his remorse, Dudley was sentenced to the maximum under the plea agreement by Judge Stevens, 20 years in prison, along with another seven years for the two aggravated robberies in the days prior to the shooting. But immediately upon being sentenced, Dudley had a change of heart, requesting to withdraw his plea with the prospect of 20 years in prison.

“You’re remorseful if you get what you want?” Knauth said aloud in court. “I see how it is.”

Stevens emphatically denied Dudley’s request to withdraw his plea as Dudley was led to prison.

Although he hopes to not have to use his weapon again, Jones said in his line of work, such actions might be inevitable. He said, in the end, officers must rely on their training and control their emotions when under fire.

“I was a lot more calm than I expected. You never know exactly what’s going to happen until it happens. When it did happen, you build yourself up to expect these things because you sign up for a type of job and you know these things are going to happen,” Jones said. “As long as you mentally pre- pare yourself for these types of situations, it’s going to be not as stressful to have to deal with, knowing that you put your life out there. Every day you put the uniform on and step out there to do what you do, you put your life out on the line. There are people that hate you and definitely want to see the worst thing happen. As you seen in there, had those bullets hit me, he wouldn’t have cared less.”