Officer’s stabber found guilty
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Oct 2, 2013, 12:54
HOPEWELL — In what started as an arrest on misdemeanor warrants, a struggle involving a man with a knife left Detective Richard Wade with four stab wounds to the back of the head and neck.
The attacker, Christopher Case, 39, was found guilty by a jury of malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer as Judge W. Allen Sharrett presided over the hearing Monday. The jury recommended a sentence of 26 years in prison.
On April 1, 2012, Wade, who has been with the Hopewell Police Department since 2000, was dropping off a Hopewell Police Explorer at Wales Trailer Park off Oaklawn Boulevard and spotted Case. Recognizing him from Hopewell Police Department’s Top 10 Most Wanted list, he called dispatch to verify his identity and called for a back up officer to assist.
Officer James Finch, with the Hopewell Police Department, met Wade at Ok Tire, next to the trailer park, and the two discussed apprehending Case. Wade told Finch that he would “get his eyes on Case” then Finch could join him at the scene a minute later.
Wade walked up to Case and said “Do you remember me?”
Wade testified that at first Case told him “No” then once Wade had introduced himself, Case gave a nod of understanding.
Wade told Case he had two outstanding misdemeanor warrants, due to probably missing court, and then took him by the right arm to place him under arrest. They began to walk toward the police vehicle and then a scuffle began. Case started to pull away, and Wade told him not to resist. Case then told Wade, “They’re not going to let me out,” and tried to pull away again, to which Wade grabbed him harder.
It was then that Case spun on Wade and began hitting him on the back of his head, making several jabbing motions. They both continued to spin and fell to the ground. Wade was able to get Case on his back and he then saw the knife. Wade grabbed the knife and threw it to the side. He also testified he did not know he had been stabbed until he felt the blood begin to run down his neck.
Finch arrived on scene and had to help Wade get Case handcuffed, who was still flailing around on the ground, fighting arrest. Officer Robert Stamper arrived on scene next, along with EMS, and he, Finch and Wade were able to put Case under arrest, with handcuffs and leg irons.
The events of that evening were told through the three witnesses for the Commonwealth: Detective Wade, Officers Finch and Stamper. After the Commonwealth had presented all of it’s evidence, and rested their case, the defense had the chance to get up and present evidence, but chose not to and rested their case without any testimony.
During cross examination, the defense, represented by Anthony Sylvester, questioned Wade on his lack of police identification, or police equipment, during the arrest and that he was dressed in “street clothes,” which Wade said he has been wearing on a regular basis since 2001.
Wade also indicated that he had met Case prior to the incident in April. He told Sylvester he met Case on two different occasions in a six-month time period, with the most recent being two months prior.
Before the deliberations began, Newman told the jury that this was not a complicated case. He said it was clear Case knew Wade was a police officer, that he was trying to get away, and that he used a deadly weapon to try and escape.
“There’s no doubt that he injured Wade. ... Certainly, at the least, he intended to disable Wade so he could get away,” Newman said. “There should be no question in your mind he was trying to get away. Period. ... We are lucky Wade wasn’t killed that day.”
In his closing arguments before deliberations, Sylvester told the jury the Commonwealth did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Case knew Detective Wade was a police officer.
“He had no badge, nothing,” Sylvester said. “He made a bad decision.”
Sylvester continued, saying the charge of malicious wounding was too harsh of a charge for his client.
“He was just trying to get away from someone who had his hand on him,” Sylvester said. “He doesn’t have to wait to get abducted or robbed. ... There is a well documented number of police impersonators.”
After less than an hour of deliberations, the jury found Case guilty of malicious wounding. Before the jury reconvened for the sentencing, which carried a term of five to 30 years, Newman called Wade to the stand for the second time during the trial.
Wade told the jury about the side effects he has had since his injuries and how it has changed his career as a police officer.
“I like to say I’m Superman ... but that’s the day I could’ve died,” Wade said. “... because someone had warrants and didn’t want to go to jail.”
Newman then told the jury to come back with the maximum sentence of 30 years. He told them the police officers are out on the street every day protecting them and now it was time to protect their lives.
“They put their lives on the line every day for us,” Newman said. “We are lucky today that we are not trying a capital murder case. They protect our lives and when someone tries to take their life they need to punished by society.”
Though sympathetic to Wade’s injuries and the pain that he has endured since, Sylvester told the jury the case did not rest on what could have happened. He said his client panicked, he had no prior history with Wade, and though Wade did sustain serious injuries, he has since recovered.
“Don’t judge him based on this one bad act,” Sylvester said. “Whatever sentence he receives will be meaningful ... whatever punishment is not going to be easy.”
The jury recommended a sentence of 26 years in this case against Case. After hearing of the jury’s decision, the commonwealth’s attorney said he was pleased the jury returned the sentence toward the upper end of the scale.