Man gets 3 years for shooting SWAT deputy

Suspect said when he fired, he did not know he was shooting police

By Scott Sandlin
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A suspected drug dealer who shot a SWAT team deputy in the groin as officers stormed his home was sentenced Friday to three years in prison, despite his contention that he did not know that the intruders were police until after the fact.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston used the occasion to call for the Legislature to enact an enhancement to the basic sentence when a law enforcement officer is the victim.

"There needs to be a clear message there's a stiffer penalty," he told reporters after the sentencing.

Deputy District Attorney Troy Davis said the specific charge of aggravated battery on a peace officer with a deadly weapon had been dropped because there was no difference in the sentence imposed.

William Westfall, 27, pleaded guilty in May to aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault under an agreement that capped his prison time at a maximum of three years. Westfall's lawyer, Patrick Martinez, asked for a sentence of time served - almost a year - for shooting Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy Justin McKinney during the execution of a search warrant at 6 a.m. in Aug. 26, 2010.

Martinez said Westfall was fast asleep at home with his wife and children and a clanky hallway swamp cooler going when he heard a window being broken. Westfall shot without investigating.

"Did he do something wrong? Yes," Martinez said, but Westfall thought his family was in danger.

He said Westfall has matured since completing a previous sentence for possession of a stolen vehicle, and was excited about his job as a plumber's apprentice. He also noted that officers found no drugs in the home, and that Westfall's hearing was impaired by one of the devices employed by the SWAT team.

In a letter read by his attorney, Westfall apologized to McKinney and said he hoped McKinney could find it in his heart to forgive him.

Westfall's foster sister, Inez Chavira, said Westfall is responsible, reliable and loving, and is loved by his foster family.

McKinney was among about dozen deputies, mostly from the SWAT team, and Houston at the hearing.

But state District Judge Kenneth Martinez said it seemed to him that Westfall was "leading something of a double life. The home didn't seem healthy for its occupants." He said it should have been obvious to Westfall that there was some sort of major police operation going on outside.

And he said he hoped Westfall would use the time away from his family to reflect on "a rather lawless life of drugs, which is really the scourge of this community."

He said he agrees with the pre-sentence report that three years was appropriate, noting McKinney has permanent nerve damage from the shooting.

Copyright 2011 Albuquerque Journal

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