Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Press conference on potential release of convicted cop-shooter

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 5:38 PM

click to enlarge Saeed Aquil
  • Saeed Aquil

Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar held a press conference today to protest the potential parole of Saeed Aquil.

On New Year's Eve in 1994, Kansas City Police Department officers Patrick Brown and Larry Schoen spotted 25-year-old Aquil and 13-year-old Jason Rushing near 37th and Prospect and pulled over to conduct a pedestrian check. "We just wanted to ask some questions," Brown said at the press conference. "He would have been on his way in five minutes."

Instead, Aquil ran. When the officers pursued him on foot, he ducked around a building and waited. Brown reached him first. Aquil turned and fired the .9 milimeter gun he'd been concealing under his jacket, hitting Brown in the chest at close range. Aquil then fired at Schoen, hitting him in the right hip and left thigh. Both officers returned fire, and Aquil fell in the street at 37th and Prospect, where he was arrested by officers responding to the scene.

Both officers recovered from their injuries. Schoen is still with the KCPD. Brown, who left the force five years after the incident, told the assembled reporters and photographers, "I believe [Aquil's] motive was to kill a police officer that night, or someone else." 

Aquil pled guilty to two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer in the first degree and two counts of armed criminal action, and was sentenced to a total of 60 years in prison. According to Missouri's sentencing statutes, offenders who commit so-called "dangerous felonies" like assault in the first degree are required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole. Brown and Schoen received letters from the Missouri Department of Corrections informing them that Aquil would not be eligible for parole until January 2037.

At some point, the Department of Corrections' list of "dangerous felonies" drew a distinction between assault in the first degree and assault on a law enforcement officer, and the latter was no longer included as an offense under the sentencing guidelines' 85 percent rule. This loophole in the statute was closed by the Missouri legislature in 2003, which added assault on a law enforcement officer in the first degree back to the list of dangerous felonies. But because Aquil's crime occurred in the window between 1994 and 2003, he isn't required to carry out 85 percent of his 60-year sentence. He will appear before the parole board at Crossroads Correctional Center on January 6, 2010.

At the press conference, Schoen expressed frustration over the fact that, had he been a civilian rather than a police officer when he was shot, his assailant would be expected to serve 85 percent of his sentence. "I feel like a second-rate citizen," said Schoen.

Schoen said there are 56 inmates currently incarcerated in

Missouri prisons who were convicted of assaulting law enforcement

officers during the window in the sentencing laws. He said that, to his knowledge, none had been released

from prison.

The Jackson County Sheriff Department's Hugh Mills remembered training Brown when Mills was with the KCPD, and telling him, "You are not dead until I respond to the scene and tell you that you are dead." He said of Aquil, "There is no more vicious criminal than he who would attack the protectors of society."

Schoen and Brown, along with Kanatzar and other law enforcement representatives, plan to attend Aquil's January 6 parole hearing and explain why they think Aquil should remain in prison for the duration of his sentence. Schoen urged citizens to call the Department of Corrections, the parole board and elected officials to express their desire to keep Aquil in prison.

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