Saying the defendant “let officers walk into an ambush,” a federal judge sentenced a fugitive’s girlfriend to two years in prison Monday for not warning officers in January her boyfriend was hiding in her house with a gun.
Authorities say the boyfriend, James William Lewis, opened fire, striking a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer attempting to arrest him in the robbery of a Pineville, N.C., restaurant.
Kirstie Barratt’s sentence, which could allow her to be out of prison by mid-2015, outraged York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant.
“Because of this woman’s lies, and the actions of her boyfriend, officers trying to protect public safety and get a criminal off the streets could have been killed,” Bryant said after court.
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“This is just another example of where nobody stands up for the police,” said Bryant, who had three deputies at the scene during the shooting. The deputies carried officer Shane Page to safety.
Monday’s court hearing also showed for the first time that Lewis, who allegedly shot Page, warned repeatedly before the shootout that the police were not going to take him alive and “he’d rather die than go to jail.” However, Lewis is undergoing mental competency testing after his lawyer claimed in court documents that Lewis is incompetent and may have been insane when Page was shot.
Barratt, 22, told U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson Jr. that she was “extremely sorry” and wished she “was the one who got shot that day” after she twice had chances to tell police Lewis was in the house.
Page, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg officer who was part of a fugitive apprehension team, was shot in the pelvis, abdomen and shoulder. He returned fire, shooting Lewis in the legs, federal prosecutor Stacey Haynes said.
Page left police work earlier this year, ending a decorated 18-year career in which he received medals of valor for heroism, including one for the January shooting.
Page was in court Monday with his wife and a few fellow officers but did not speak. He declined to comment afterward about the sentence.
Anderson sentenced Barratt to a longer sentence than federal guidelines normally call for because she had two chances to tell police that Lewis was hiding with a gun inside her home. Instead, she told police she hadn’t seen him in weeks.
Barratt, with no criminal record, would have normally have faced up to six months in prison under federal guidelines. Anderson said in court he has exceeded the advisory sentencing guidelines “less than a handful” of times in decades of presiding over cases. But the officer’s shooting was an “egregious” act that “knowingly placed a law enforcement officer in jeopardy.”
“You were very fortunate you did not have a loss of life,” Anderson told Barratt.
Anderson said he did not give a longer sentence of up to five years because Barratt was “genuinely remorseful.”
Haynes, the federal prosecutor who asked for a longer than normal sentence, said it was “a miracle” no one died in the shootout. Testimony showed Barratt and Lewis hatched a plot for Lewis to hide in the crawl space or attic when police showed up at her parents’ home in a subdivision outside Fort Mill on Jan. 7.
When officers with bullhorns arrived asking for Lewis to come out, Barratt lied to police by saying he wasn’t inside. She then saw Lewis “crouched in a corner” in an upstairs bedroom with a gun after police had her take a dog out of the room so officers could search for Lewis.
Barratt, born in England, faces potential deportation after serving her jail sentence, which includes the 11 months she has already served since the incident. Her sentence will end in January 2016, but she could be out sooner with potential time off for good behavior.
“If that girl had told the truth to the police from the beginning, that her boyfriend was inside, the officer would never have been hurt and she would not be going to prison,” said Bryant, the sheriff. “The officers would have changed their course of action about capturing him if she told them he was inside and had a gun. She chose to lie and put everyone in danger of being killed.”
Barratt’s parents said after court that Lewis had bragged about robbing the Pineville, N.C., restaurant but threatened both Barratt and them if anyone helped police catch him.
Lewis was “dangerous,” David Barratt said, but their daughter insisted that he be allowed to stay because Lewis was allegedly homeless. Their daughter made a “bad choice” with Lewis and is now paying the consequences but is “extremely remorseful” about the wounded officer, David and Karen Barratt said after court.
Lewis, 32, who pleaded guilty to the restaurant robbery in May in federal court in Charlotte, has past convictions for drugs and car theft. He did not appear in court Monday, but faces up to life in prison if he is found competent to stand trial and is convicted on federal and state charges connected to Page’s shooting.