York Co. cop killer pleads guilty, lawyer says actions ‘response to alcohol and fear’
Christian McCall pleaded guilty to killing a York County police officer and wounding three other officers in a January ambush.
McCall, 47, avoided the possible death penalty he could have faced if convicted at a trial after he pleaded guilty Tuesday in court to murder and attempted murder when he used an assault rifle Jan. 16 to shoot York County Sheriff's Office Det. Mike Doty and injure three other officers — Randy Clinton, Buddy Brown and Kyle Cummings.
All three wounded officers were in the court for the emotional hearing.
16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said one of the rounds from McCall's gun penetrated several layers of Kevlar in Brown's helmet, leaving the deputy with a mild concussion and injuries.
"If they had not been treated they would have died," Brackett said in court.
Brackett said when McCall was taken into custody, he was carrying a "go bag" — a belt with two canteens, a med kit, camouflage face paint, a knife and six 30-round clips, or 180 rounds of ammunition.
Prosecutors and McCall's lawyer said a deal was made for McCall to accept life without parole in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty against him.
McCall also pleaded guilty to domestic violence and weapons charges.
Brackett said the deal was reached after speaking with the shooting victims and Doty's family.
"But for their mercy and their desire to move forward quickly, this would be a death penalty case," Brackett said.
Bob Doty, Doty's father, spoke at McCall's hearing and said the shooting left his family "virtually paralyzed with grief," but his Christian faith instilled the power of forgiveness.
"In searching for what Mike would want us to do … we're certain Mike would want us to look for opportunities to grow both personally and spiritually," Bob Doty said.
Bob Doty said he prays for McCall's family every day.
McCall's wife of 20 years and two children, a 18-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, were all in court Tuesday.
Police were called to McCall's home, outside York, on the night of Jan. 15 for a domestic violence 911 call from his wife, who said she had been "punched in the face" during the call played in court.
McCall's wife could be heard screaming in the audio after Brackett said, McCall assaulted her again.
McCall fled, but was pursued by York County Sheriff's Office K-9 officer Clinton. McCall shot Clinton twice, testimony showed.
Brown reached out to comfort Clinton in the courtroom as Brackett talked about his injuries. Clinton was "dragged" to safety by other officers as another returned shots, Brackett said.
Brackett said an officer who stayed at the scene of the first shooting before back-up arrived had to be treated for hypothermia after spending more than an hour waiting in the cold to protect the crime scene.
When more officers from the York County SWAT team arrived after Clinton was shot, McCall ambushed those officers, according to reports. Doty was shot and later died, and Brown and Cummings were wounded. All three are SWAT team members.
McCall was wounded in the shootout with police. He spent two months in a Charlotte hospital until being released in March, when he was charged with the crimes and extradited to York County.
He had been jailed without bond pending trial until pleading guilty Tuesday.
Those who knew McCall best said they couldn't explain his actions.
Public defender Harry Dest quoted McCall's brother Aaron in court: "Never in a million years did I expect him to do something like this with a gun."
Dest said McCall understands and takes responsibility for his actions.
"He knows and accepts that he will spend the rest of his life in prison for the carnage he (created) in York County that night," Dest said.
Dest said McCall's actions were impossible to explain, but may have come from a combination of a volatile marriage, financial pressures, work issues and the abuse of alcohol. According to a March statement from the family, McCall worked in banking after serving in the military.
"I hope to devote the rest of my life to doing the most good and helping the most people as my circumstances will allow," McCall said in court.
Visiting Judge Grace Knie of Spartanburg accepted the plea deal and sentenced McCall to life in prison without possibility of parole for the murder charge, 30 years in prison for each attempted murder charge and 5 years in prison for each possession of a weapon during a violent crime charge.
York County Sheriff Tolson said he tells his officers to continue to hold their heads high.
"He took the life of Mike Doty," Tolson said." He took a son from two of the finest parents I know. He took a mentor from a countless number of youth in this community. … He took our friend. But I think it's more important to point out what he didn't take."
McCall didn't take the courage of the officers who ran into the line of fire to save the lives of Clinton, Brown and Cummings, Tolson said.
"He didn't take the spirit that these officers have to get up every day to serve the community they love and risk their lives," he said.