Convict faces second jury for 2006 charges
By John Joyce
Published in News on August 18, 2013 1:50 AM
A Wayne County man will spend an additional 20-26 years in prison after a Superior Court jury last week found him guilty -- again -- in connection with the 2006 shooting of a Goldsboro/Wayne County Drug Squad officer.
The state sentence for Bobby Lee Rawlings, 64, comes on top of a federal sentence, which put Rawlings in prison for 46 years -- time he was already serving.
Rawlings was convicted in 2008 in federal court on drug charges, and then pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges for the attempted murders of former Goldsboro police Capt. Brady Thompson and Sgt. Dan Peters.
The two officers were shot while attempting to serve a warrant at Rawlings' East Elm Street home.
Rawlings was also convicted previously in state court to 14 years.
A judge recently vacated that sentence due to a sentencing technicality, forcing a retrial.
"His state sentence was vacated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons," District Attorney Branny Vickory said.
The federal prison system would not allow Rawlings to serve the state-imposed sentence concurrently with his federal sentence of more than 40 years for drug trafficking, Vickory said.
For Rawlings, that meant coming back to Wayne County to face a new jury.
For Thompson, who retired just three years after being shot by Rawlings, it meant coming face-to-face again with his would-be killer.
"It made a lot of stuff resurface," Thompson said after the proceedings this week.
He recovered rapidly from his physical wounds, he said, returning to work the day after the shooting.
The wounds to his psyche lingered much longer.
Rawlings shot Thompson in the chest and nearly struck Peters in the head during the 2006 drug raid on his home at 1200 E. Elm St.
A bullet-proof vest saved Thompson's life.
Old-fashioned solid construction prevented officer Dan Peters from being killed, Vickory said.
"It's an old house that had those thick plaster-type walls. If it had been sheet rock, that stuff they use today. ... It really is a miracle neither of (the officers) were killed," he said.
When Thompson kicked open the door to Rawlings bedroom, one shot from the suspect's .380 caliber pistol struck the door frame, the other struck Thompson squarely in the chest.
The door slammed shut.
Thompson spun and fell to the floor.
Rawlings fired again. The round embedded in the wall near the doorway, just inches from where Dan Peters head had been a split second before.
Rawlings gun jammed, and he surrendered.
Thompson was carried out on a stretcher. Rawlings, was carried out in restraints.
On the witness stand, Thompson described the after effects of the shooting, those that went beyond the tiny scar on the man's broad chest.
He told the court he developed a drinking problem and suffered from symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He retired from his life's work in 2009.
During much of the trial, Thompson sat in the second of three reserved rows, surrounded by the members of his former drug squad -- there to testify and to support.
"What you have to understand is law enforcement is a family. These are all my family here, close family," Thompson said.
Thompson and Dan Peters started on the force the same week in 1983. They worked together their entire careers.
"He's my brother," he said.
The officers had a long week of sitting through testimony and taking their turns on the stand.
Rawlings would remain in prison on the federal charges regardless of the outcome of the state retrial.
What Thompson and his fellow officers worried about, aside from their own satisfaction at seeing Rawlings convicted, was the message that would be sent to the streets if the jury failed to "do the right thing."
In his new trial, Rawlings' defense counsel alleged self-defense because Rawlings thought he was being robbed and stated the police failed to announce themselves as required by law.
Defense attorney Walter Webster offered an alternative-shooter theory, a missing second gun theory and a less-than-thorough forensic evidence analysis theory.
He questioned the credibility of the 10 or more officers who testified, telling the jury during closing arguments that the officers had seven years to gel their stories between the first and the new trials.
He even questioned the validity of one of the charges, saying that the charge of assault inflicting serious injury wasn't valid because Thompson wasn't seriously injured. Webster said Thompson was "just hurt" and called his wound a "character builder."
The jury instructions were 32 pages.
The wording stressed that the law implicitly states that a person's legal right to the use of deadly force in the defense of one's home, or to protect one's own life, is nullified if the person using deadly force is in the process of committing a felony or if the person is attempting to use deadly force against law enforcement officers who have identified themselves and are acting in the course of their sworn duties.
It took the jury little more than an hour to deliberate.
When the verdict was announced -- guilty on each count, there were quiet fist bumps and hands placed on shoulders among the members of the old drug squad.
After the sentencing, Thompson shook hands and shared hugs with his old partners.
"I feel relieved. I think justice has been served," he said.
Thompson currently works security at Memorial Hospital and is considering returning to law enforcement.