Wagner man convicted of assault against police
WAGNER -- A Wagner man who nearly ran over three police officers in 2016 faces up to 94 years in custody after a jury found him guilty of four felony assault charges this week.
WAGNER - A Wagner man who nearly ran over three police officers in 2016 faces up to 94 years in custody after a jury found him guilty of four felony assault charges this week.
Jerrod Zephier was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a Dec. 20, 2016, incident in which he drove drunk into the scene of a vehicle fire and threatened to injure three officers near Wagner.
A jury found 39-year-old Zephier guilty of the four felonies, as well as three misdemeanor charges of threatening law enforcement officers and second-offense driving under the influence. A sentencing date had not been set as of Friday afternoon.
Prosecuting attorney Scott Podhradsky said the conviction shows the justice system's commitment to enforcing officer's safety, and feels "justice was served."
"This was a big case for law enforcement officers," Podhradsky said Friday. "It was fairly obvious that things could have ended up a lot worse for them, and they all expressed the fear they were in."
At approximately 2 a.m. Dec. 20, 2016, three officers were working the scene of a vehicle fire near Wagner, using patrol vehicles with activated emergency lights to block off the road and stop traffic from approaching the scene, according to court documents.
Shortly after, the officers heard a vehicle accelerating toward the scene, so one flashed a patrol vehicle's hazard lights to alert the driver to slow down, but it continued.
All three officers were forced to dive out of the way of the vehicle and the driver of a tow truck had to quickly accelerate to avoid being struck.
When officers approached the vehicle that stopped after striking a patrol vehicle blocking the road, the driver, identified as Zephier, did not immediately comply to commands to exit the vehicle.
When he did and police were walking him to a vehicle, they could smell alcohol and asked Zephier to conduct sobriety tests, but Zephier declined.
Zephier was agitated, warning of retribution when released from custody and threatening to hit an officer and "knock his teeth out," according to court documents.
A judge granted a search warrant to obtain blood from Zephier, and he was increasingly combative at the hospital. Police had to physically restrain him as nurses attempted to do the draw, and at one point Zephier got hold of the needle and attempted to strike an officer with it.
Because of the maximum sentences of each charge Zephier was convicted of in relation to the crime, he could essentially face a life sentence, attorneys said in court documents.
Podhradsky said Friday he's not sure what he'll request at the time of sentencing, but hopes for a strict sentence.
"I just really haven't sat down and thought about (sentencing)," he said. "The first thing is to get the conviction, then let it sit and think about it. I'm just really tired today."
And Zephier is no stranger to the judicial process.
Since 2014, he has been charged with more than 15 unrelated crimes, including accessory to a felony, eluding, possession of a controlled substance and minor traffic violations.