A judge sentenced a man to 40 years in federal prison Tuesday, sparing him the life term sought by prosecutors after he was convicted earlier this year of charges linked to the shooting of a Tulsa police officer.
In issuing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan noted that John Terry Chatman Jr., 35, still faces more time in prison if he is found guilty in state court of charges linked to the shooting.
Chatman shot Tulsa Police Sgt. Mike Parsons on July 3 after the officer fired several rounds from a pepper ball gun into a van Chatman had refused to exit.
A jury convicted Chatman on Jan. 29 following a trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
A week before his trial, Chatman, who was also wounded during a gunfire exchange with officers, backed out of a plea deal with prosecutors that called for him to serve a 40-year prison term.
U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said afterward that while he was disappointed that Chatman did not receive a life term in prison, he noted that a 40-year sentence is a “very long time.”
“This sentence still sends a strong message that shooting a police officer will not be tolerated,” Shores said.
During the sentencing hearing in Tulsa federal court, Chatman apologized to his family and “the public for putting anybody in harm’s way.”
“I’m not some monster that the public would like to portray me as,” Chatman told the judge.
He said he loved his seven children and would someday like to see his future grandchildren.
“I’m asking you, judge: Don’t give me life,” Chatman said.
While he did not apologize to Parsons, Chatman said the officer “does seem like he is a very nice person.”
“I hope the best for him,” Chatman said of Parsons, who was hit in a thigh by one of four bullets fired by Chatman.
In a handwritten letter to Eagan, Chatman asked for forgiveness and thanked the police.
“I would like to add … with all I went through in being shot four times, that with all the oppertunity ya’ll had, that I appreciate you not killing me,” Chatman wrote.
Before the sentence was handed down, Shores argued that life sentences “exist for defendants like John Terry Chatman.”
Shores said Chatman has not shown any remorse for his crimes and did not apologize in court to Parsons or other Tulsa police officers who were involved in the shootout.
“I do not believe that Mr. Chatman is redeemable,” Shores said. “He should be sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.”
Jurors deliberated about two hours before finding Chatman guilty on all three federal counts he faced.
Before the shootout, police had tried unsuccessfully to coax Chatman out of a van parked near the gas pumps at the QuikTrip at 4950 S. Harvard Ave.
Minutes earlier, police had encountered Chatman and his girlfriend in the van in a nearby motel parking lot.
Officers sought to question Chatman again when they noticed that the vehicle he was driving had a license plate that was not registered to the vehicle.
Officer body camera video made public after the shooting depicted Parsons being shot immediately after he fired the pepper ball rounds into the van. After Parsons was shot, another officer returned fire, wounding Chatman in the neck and chest.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Chatman faced a sentence ranging from 40 years to life in prison.
Eagan ordered Chatman serve a 10-year sentence for the conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and a concurrent 30-year prison term for the conviction of attempting to kill a witness.
Federal law requires the sentence Chatman received for the third conviction, a 10-year term for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, to be served after he completes the 30-year prison term and any prison time he should receive from the pending state charges related to the shooting, Eagan said.
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