New York, NY – A teenage repeat offender who nearly killed a New York police officer by dragging him with a stolen car has been sentenced to just 16 months to four years in prison.
“[The judge] spit on every shield on every chest in the city,” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told reporters outside the courtroom. “She spit on our hero…And she spit on that family…How dare she?”
Justin Murrell was 15 years old when New York Police Officer Dalsh Veve spotted him behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle as he was responding to a report of gunfire in June of 2017, WCBS reported.
Officer Veve tried to stop the car, at which point Murrell – who had a history of at least 11 prior arrests – sped away and dragged the officer with the vehicle for several blocks.
The brutal incident left Officer Veve, a married father of a young daughter, with catastrophic brain damage.
He was kept in a medically-induced coma for weeks, and will be confined to a wheelchair for life.
He has since been promoted to the rank of detective, and was released from a rehabilitative facility in May of 2018.
During the hearing, Det. Veve’s wife, Esther, told the court that her husband will never fully recover from the injuries Murrell caused, and that he sometimes still does not recognize her or their daughter, the New York Post reported.
“I’m speaking now because my husband is not able to speak for himself,” she said. “Eighteen months later, we are still trying to put the pieces of our life together…There have been moments when he can’t recognize his little [4-year-old] girl, and you can imagine how that breaks our hearts.”
Judge Ruth Shillingford handed down the lenient sentence on Wednesday, prompting immediate outrage among law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and their supporters.
Despite his youth, Murrell, who is now 17, had racked up at least 11 arrests by the time he nearly killed Det. Veve, WCBS reported.
He is also a purported Crips gang member, the New York Post reported.
He was charged with attempted murder and first-degree assault, but the jury only convicted him on the assault offense, according to WCBS.
During the sentencing hearing, his attorney argued that Murrell was just a kid, and that he “didn’t plan and could not have anticipated what could’ve happened,” WCBS reported.
Murrell faced up to 10 years in prison, but Shillingford sided with defense, and sentenced the teen to 16 months to four years in prison.
“This defendant had numerous contacts with the criminal justice system and was given numerous opportunities to get on the right path,” Kings County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Oren Yaniv said after the sentence was imposed, according to WCBS. “Yet he has repeatedly proven that he has no regard for the rule of law and is a danger to society.”
“The judge should have therefore imposed the maximum sentence and it is regrettable that she failed to do so,” the statement continued. “The rule of law, the safety of our police officers and the circumstances of this case demanded a more appropriate penalty.”
Lynch denounced Shillingford’s decision outside the courtroom, and openly expressed his disagreement with the outrageous sentence.
“I’ve been a police officer for 35 years. I have never been so angry in my entire life,” Lynch said. “I’ve never sat in a courtroom where a judge sat and looked at a police officer confined to a wheelchair, heard the [wife] speak of how their lives have changed, talked about a 4-year-old that will not feel the hug of her father, and then say this mutt should be treated as a child!”
“His decisions were adult decisions,” Lynch continued. “The results changed lives. I warn the people of this city, in four years, this potential cop killer will be back on the street.”
Lynch was unmoved by claims that Murrell “behaves himself in jail,” and said that he only does so “because he has to.”
“This is outrageous!” he railed. “This hero police officer stood the blue line every day to protect our rights. That mutt crossed the line every time he could…violently robbed the citizens of this city, and time and time again, judges said, ‘It’s okay. He’s a baby-faced bandit. He’ll grow out of it.’”
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Hames O’Neill called the sentence an “absolute disgrace,” and said that justice was not served.
“A mere 16 months-to-4 years in prison for the criminal who caused catastrophic and lasting injuries to #NYPD Detective Dalsh Veve is an absolute disgrace,” Commissioner O’Neill tweeted. “Our brave & selfless public servant, his family, and all #NYC cops deserve far better. Justice fell short today.”
Detectives’ Endowment Association President Michael Palladino said that the court is not considering the risk offenders pose to law enforcement officers and the community as a whole, WABC reported.
“What I witnessed in court today is a clear example of how a defective law interferes with justice and how the court simply disregarded the risk and danger that cops face protecting the public,” Palladino’s statement read. “The no bail-no jail policy of our political leaders in this state should anger all cops and hard-working law-abiding citizens of New York.”
Det. Veve and his wife were present in the courtroom during Murrell’s sentencing, but did not make any statements afterwards, WABC reported.
The couple exited the courthouse, and walked through a crowd of applauding law enforcement officers outside.
“Detective Dalsh Veve served the people of New York City bravely and selflessly, and in that service sustained injuries that he will carry with him for the rest of his life,” the NYPD said in a statement, according to WABC.
“The short period of time this young criminal faces pales in comparison to the sacrifice made by Dalsh and his wife and young daughter, who saw their lives changed forever by this outrageous crime,” the department said. “Justice fell short today, and Dalsh, his family, and police officers across the city deserve far better.”