By Claire Z. Cardona
The Dallas Morning News
FORT WORTH, Texas — A 26-year-old man was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison for the 2016 shooting of an Arlington police officer who was trying to serve a warrant for the slaying of a Saginaw teenager.
A Tarrant County jury found Joel McCommon guilty Friday of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the shooting that wounded Officer Eddie Johnston.
McCommon faced up to 20 years in prison on the charge and up to life in prison had he been convicted of the original charge of aggravated assault on a peace officer.
Arlington and Saginaw police had been attempting to serve McCommon with a murder warrant April 25, 2016, when McCommon fired on Johnston from inside an apartment in the 400 block of Summit Avenue, near the University of Texas at Arlington campus.
Johnston fired back and wounded McCommon. The officer, a three-year veteran of the department, was shot once and released from the hospital the next day.
Johnston said Tuesday that his wife has had to seek help explaining to the couple’s two children that their father had been shot, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
“Every day before I leave for work, my 6-year-old tells me, ‘Dad, don’t get shot today,'” he said. “We try to laugh it off. To this day, I haven’t been able to tell them about it. They still don’t know the details.”
An Arlington police spokesman said the department continues “to support our officer, the department and community during this ordeal.”
“We are thankful that our officer has returned to full duty and how this case has proceeded through the criminal justice system,” the spokesman said.
Two days before the shootout with police, McCommon was accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Jordan Miles in broad daylight during a failed marijuana transaction.
During the trial, McCommon said he was planning to sell a small amount of marijuana to someone he thought was a woman, but Miles and two other men got into McCommon’s car, Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney Tim Rodgers said.
McCommon testified that during the transaction, Miles pulled out a realistic-looking airsoft gun. Thinking it was real, McCommon took out his own gun and shot Miles, Rodgers said.
The two men in the back seat got out and ran while Miles got McCommon’s gun and stumbled out. McCommon then got out, tackled Miles to get the gun back and drove off, Rodgers said.
Miles was found lying on the ground in the 200 block of Creekside Drive near his home. The Saginaw High senior died at a local hospital days before his 18th birthday. His cause of death was a gunshot wound in the abdomen, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.
“If he thought he was justified in using self-defense against Jordan, he should have called police,” Tarrant County prosecutor Dawn Ferguson said. “He showed you absolutely no remorse for what happened in Saginaw. All he cares about is himself and his gun.”
McCommon could still face trial on the murder charge in Miles’ death, Rodgers said. He said the decision was made to bring the aggravated assault case first based on the “totality of everything.”
During the trial, McCommon’s attorney Deric Walpole said his client was acting in self-defense because he thought Miles had a real gun, the Star-Telegram reported. He also said that the officers did not announce they were police when they knocked on McCommon’s door that night.
Prosecutors said McCommon changed his story several times, including details such as which way he was pointing the gun the night Johnston was shot.
Two days after Miles was shot, Saginaw and Arlington police knocked on the apartment door because they weren’t sure McCommon was there. He opened the door after a while, closed it immediately, opened it again and fired, Rodgers said.
McCommon said during the trial that he thought it was the two men who had been with Miles and not the police. Johnston, the officer, said he yelled “police,” Rodgers said.
Ultimately the jury determined McCommon, who was a senior math major at UT-Arlington, was not acting in self-defense but did not know that he was shooting at a police officer, Rodgers said.
He said he hopes the four-year sentence does not lead people to believe that shootings of police officers don’t matter.
“It’s really important to us to prosecute fully when a police officer gets shot, but the jury obviously felt there was a lot of mitigation on behalf of the defendant in coming to the decision they did,” Rodgers said.
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