01/14/09 — Rawlings pleads in officer shooting

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Rawlings pleads in officer shooting

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 14, 2009 1:46 PM

Bobby Lee Rawlings

A Goldsboro man pleaded guilty in Wayne County Superior Court this week to shooting a Goldsboro police captain in the chest after a motion to move his trial failed.

Bobby Lee Rawlings, 60, who had already been convicted on cocaine charges in federal court in March 2008, faced five counts related to assaulting two high-ranking Goldsboro narcotics officers.

He already faces 46 years in federal prison for the drug charges, and now faces up to 14 years in prison for the local assault and attempted murder charges.

Capt. Brady Thompson was hit in the chest with a bullet fired by Rawlings in March 2006. Rawlings also fired at Sgt. Dan Peters, police and prosecutors contended.

Authorities also said Rawlings would have kept firing if his weapon had not jammed after his third shot.

Rawlings faced five charges in the case, and his attorney, Goldsboro criminal lawyer Charles Gurley, spent most of Monday filing motions.

Superior Court Judge Thomas D. Haigwood denied a motion for a change of venue, a motion to dismiss based on the assertion of "double jeopardy," and a motion to suppress evidence collected during a police search.

Gurley contended that because Rawlings had already been tried in federal court, trying him again in Wayne County Superior Court constituted "double jeopardy."

But the judge disagreed, because the federal charges were related to possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute, illegally owning a firearm as a convicted felon and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.

After the motions were denied, the court stopped for lunch. When officials returned, Rawlings had changed his mind about a plea agreement.

He pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Ricks presented the required "factual basis" statement to the judge, with the assistance of District Attorney Branny Vickory.

"Several officers arrived on scene, and they announced very loudly, 'police,' and 'search warrant,'" Ricks said in presenting the state's factual basis.

Police knocked on the door several times, but with no answer, resorted to a battering ram. Authorities would later find the door had been barricaded with wood.

After the battering ram failed, Wayne County Sheriff's Office Deputy Brian Dawson pushed the entire door down, according to police testimony.

When police entered the building, they continued to loudly announce their presence, and Rico Deavon Lewis, 34, then of Green Street, was caught and later charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

Upstairs, police ran into more trouble, according to the statement made by prosecutors.

"Capt. Thompson was exiting (a) bedroom he had just cleared, and was struck once in the chest," Ricks said. "The defendant Bobby Rawlings fired two more shots, in the vicinity of Sgt. Dan Peters, striking the wall in the bedroom."

The shots did not hit Peters, but authorities said they believed that Rawlings would have made further attempts on the sergeant's life if his gun had not jammed.

"It's the state's contention that he would have kept firing. However, the gun jammed after the third shot, at which point the defendant surrendered," Ricks said in court.

Although Rawlings faces 46 years in prison for his federal sentence, that sentence is under appeal, according to people familiar with the case.

Since the local case is separate from the federal case, even if an appeal of the federal charges is successful, he will still face up to 14 years incarceration on the local assault and attempted murder charges.

Gurley, the defendant's attorney, was in court Tuesday and attempts to reach him before deadline today were unsuccessful.

Thompson, who recovered quickly because he was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, said he had mixed feelings about the sentence.

"I guess you could say it (the sentence) is OK with me, even though I feel like he should have gotten more time," the police captain said. "The reason I think he should have gotten more is he never apologized. He never showed any remorse until yesterday.

"Speaking out in court, he said he never really knew it was the police, and if he had, he wouldn't have done it, and he was sorry for it. But that's about it."