ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Arvon Brown tearfully told the judge he didn’t deserve life in prison, because he was high on ecstasy pills and couldn’t even remember firing eight shots that hit Officer Joe Haman during a traffic stop near Grand and Natural Bridge in May of 2010.
The courtroom was packed with over a hundred officers in uniform, a standing-room-only crowd showing support for an officer who encountered what’s becoming a more common hazard — suspects shooting at police.
At the front of the court, a mannequin was clothed in Officer Haman’s short sleeved blue uniform shirt from that day, with yellow stickies marking the spots where eight shots hit. One shot landed right at the officer’s heart, his life saved by a bullet proof vest.
The defendant’s father, Carl Brown, approached the bench, asking the judge for leniency with tears running down his cheeks. He described his son as a good student who was taught to attend Baptist church regularly, but had apparently suffered from “a mental illness thing.”
“You have to understand,” the father said, “In the African American community, we think God can handle it. Instead of going to a professional, I went to the church. That’s not the son that I raised.”
The prosecutor had sought a sentence of life plus twenty years, but the judge settled on life.
Defense Attorney Bobby Bailey was disappointed in the life sentence.
“He’s a good kid who did a bad thing,” Bailey said, “Was he evil? Was he the devil? No, I don’t believe so.”
Bailey also underscored the role that drugs played in the shooting. “He indicated that the drugs he was taking, the ecstasy had an effect on his mental processing that day.”
Among the officers present, Lt. Colonel Lawrence O’Toole was not pleased with the drugs-made-me-do it argument.
“No matter if you’re intoxicated or not, these are your actions and you’re accountable for it,” O’Toole said afterward in the hallway, “He’s an adult. He’s a sane individual.”
Haman talked with reporters after the sentencing, saying he wished it was longer, but was generally pleased to get the case behind him. Forced to retire from his injuries, Haman has gone back to school to find a new career.
When asked about the day of the shooting, Haman told KMOX he remembered how “composed” his attacker was, reminding him of combat situations he had seen as a Marine.
“I remember him taking a shot,” Haman said, “It wasn’t like he was shooting off rounds as fast as he could, because he was scared nervous. He knew what he was doing. In combat, people I knew didn’t have that much composure.”
Looking back on the day that ended his career, Haman says he wishes he had handled it differently.
“Any other policemen, I would say don’t do what I did, learn from my mistakes,” Haman said, “Always make sure your backup is there before you do anything, especially handling multiple people.”