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Sheriff, deputies praised by judge

BY PORTSIA SMITH

Before convicting a Westmoreland County waterman of three felonies, a circuit court judge credited the sheriff and his deputies for having restraint in what could have easily been a deadly situation.

Clarence William “Juice” McKenney, 67, was convicted Wednesday of felonious assault on a law enforcement officer, unauthorized use of a vehicle and felony eluding.

Judge Joseph E. Spruill Jr.  reduced a charge of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer and dropped a firearms charge.

Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 12.

Westmoreland  Deputy Antwan Smith testified that he got a call about 7:40 p.m. on Aug. 17, 2011, about an orange Chevrolet Camaro being driven recklessly along State Route 202 in the Mount Holly area. Smith chased the car about a mile to a home on Fisherman’s Lane where McKenney resides alone.

Smith said the driver got out of the car and advanced on his patrol car, even after the deputy advised him to return to his vehicle.

“He said: ‘Go ahead and shoot me. I’ll [expletive] kill you,’” Smith told the judge.

Smith said he kept backing away with his gun drawn and eventually took cover in a wooded area nearby.  Smith said the man then went into the house and came out with a gun.

“He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun,” Smith was heard saying on the recorded dispatch call.

A male voice, identified in court as McKenney’s, was recorded saying: “Boy, you in my world now. Don’t you run from me. I’ll blow your [expletive] head off. You’re [expletive] with the wrong one.”

Smith said he saw a white vehicle pull up next door. He said he advised the occupants to leave the area and to call the dispatch center and tell them he was safe.

Moments later, Smith said, McKenney got into his patrol vehicle with the lights still flashing and drove up the long driveway.

Deputy Charles Bowles testified that he had unsuccessfully attempted to stop McKenney, who drove the patrol car toward him but then turned back around.

A dispatcher, Billy Taylor, was trying to talk to McKenney through the patrol car radio to calm him down. A voice identified as McKenney’s responded: “Billy, I got your [expletive] car.

“Tell your boy to back the [expletive] off. Boys wanna play,” he continued to say over the radio.  “What the hell did I do, Billy? I’ve been through enough in the last seven years. I ain’t going to jail.”

A peak moment during the trial came during the testimony of Sheriff C.O. Balderson, who was at home cutting grass during the incident.

A dispatcher called and made him aware of what was going on with “Juice,” whom he has known for a long time.

When Balderson was on his way to the scene, he heard McKenney address him over the patrol-car radio: “Carroll Owen, bring your fat [expletive] down here. I got something for you.”

Balderson was able to reach McKenney by cellphone, and told him he had to go to jail.

“I’m not going to jail,” McKenney said before a short pause, Balderson testified.

After a brief conversation, Balderson, dressed in a T–shirt, shorts and tennis shoes, walked up the driveway without a weapon and arrested McKenney without further incident.

“I thought that was the most peaceful way this was going to get resolved,” Balderson told the judge.

Investigator Mark Mitchell of the Westmoreland Sheriff’s Office testified that three weapons were later found at McKenney’s home—a loaded .38-caliber revolver, a 9 mm handgun and a semiautomatic rifle.

Smith testified earlier that no shots were fired in the incident.

Defense attorneys Craig Cooley and James Breeden argued that, for that reason, the charge of attempted capital murder should be reduced to assault on a police officer.

Westmoreland Commonwealth’s Attorney Julia Hutt Sichol cited a similar case in which  a judge ruled that a defendant’s behavior was enough to find him guilty of attempted capital murder.

The judge agreed with the defense and reduced the charge, which also meant the firearms charge had to be dropped because it was connected to the attempted-murder charge.

“The big story in this case is about the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office,” Judge Spruill said. “All of the officers showed remarkable restraint dealing with a man who was obnoxious, bellicose and probably deranged.”

The defense didn’t offer any reasoning for his behavior other than that McKenney suffers from cancer and heart disease, and uses a lot of medications.

“It was an accurate, reasoned decision,” Breeden said in response to the verdict.

McKenney, who has been incarcerated at the Northern Neck Regional Jail since his arrest, had his home scheduled to go up for foreclosure this week. But his daughter, Shannon Harris, said his home and rental properties were all paid off last Friday, and he’ll be able to keep his property.

Portsia Smith:  540/374-5419

psmith@fredericksburg.com

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