Friday, March 31, 2006

Driver Convicted Of Shooting Police Officer

The punishment phase of a man convicted of attempted capital murder for shooting a Houston police officer resumes this morning after being delayed briefly Thursday when the judge ordered he be taken from the courtroom for speaking while a witness testified against him.

A jury convicted Wendell Roy Mitchell, 34, early Thursday in the wounding of Houston police officer Raul Montelongo Jr. during a traffic stop April 22.

He faces 15 years to life in prison. The punishment phase is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m.

Mitchell told investigators he did not intend to kill Montelongo when he fired his pistol. Jurors could have found him guilty of the lesser charge of deadly conduct if they had determined he had no intention of killing the officer.

During the trial's punishment phase late Thursday, several witnesses testified about Mitchell's previous arrest for robbing restaurants in 1990 in Houston and Jacinto City.

While Jacinto City Police Chief Joe M. Ayala read from a written statement Mitchell made when he was arrested and admitted committing one of those robberies, Mitchell pleaded with the judge, saying he had not made the statement.

"Your honor, I didn't write those things in that statement," he said in a calm, soft voice.

State District Judge Belinda Hill told bailiffs to escort the jury from the courtroom and to take Mitchell to a holding cell outside the court. She recessed court for about 10 minutes.

When court resumed but before the jury returned, she admonished Mitchell not to make any more outbursts or he would be returned to the holding cell.

He remained quiet for the remainder of testimony Thursday.

Mitchell told investigators after his arrest that he meant only to scare Montelongo when he fired his .380-caliber pistol as the officer stood within about a foot of him after stopping him for speeding in the 8400 block of the Eastex Freeway, according to court records.

"I believe him, because he's not a murderer," his mother, Lillian Davis, said outside the courtroom after the verdict was announced..

Montelongo, 36, said he was happy about the verdict.

"It's satisfying, knowing the justice system worked," he said outside the courtroom.



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