Attack nets man four years in prison

Published 10:50 am Friday, September 19, 2008

COURTLAND—Freddie Drake’s November attack on two police officers went so far beyond the average assault that it demanded a harsher penalty than the law recommends, a judge ruled Thursday.

Southampton Circuit Court Judge Rodham T. Delk Jr. described the brief exchange of gunfire outside the Statesville-area home where Drake was living as “a potentially devastating situation.”

“This is as serious as it gets, short of an active, intentional shootout,” Delk said in pronouncing Drake’s sentence for three felonies associated with the incident. “This court is simply not going to tolerate this kind of case.”

Delk sentenced Drake to a total of four-and-a-half years of active prison time, about two years more than the state’s guidelines called for in the case.

Neither the defendant’s apparent mental state at the time of the shooting, nor his admitted alcohol and prescription drug problems — reiterated Thursday by his own witnesses — were mitigating factors, the judge said, as Drake’s actions inside and outside the house that day had served only to endanger his own life and those of the responding police officers.

After being called to the home to investigate shots fired and a possible suicide that evening in November, Southampton Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Griffith arrived at a quiet house and started to approach the front door but quickly changed his mind and asked a dispatcher to try to raise one of the residents on the phone.

Listening to his intuition may have saved the deputy’s life, Judge Delk said Thursday. Drake had still been inside the home — depressed, drunk on most of a bottle of whiskey and, according to his brother Thursday, under the influence of 29 Xanax pills — when Griffith arrived on the scene. Without warning, he fired a shotgun through the front door, sending the deputy scurrying for cover behind his cruiser.

“Mr. Drake didn’t know whether Deputy Griffith was behind that door or not,” the judge added.

When Drake emerged from the house, Griffith testified in June, “He knelt with the gun pointing at the car, saying ‘Kill me, or I’m going to kill you.’”

Griffith fired his revolver once and missed, though he testified he thought he had hit Drake when he saw the man drop his weapon and fall to the ground.

As he left the cover of his automobile, the deputy said, he saw Drake crawling toward his gun and heard him say, “Shoot me. You’re going to have to live with it the rest of your life. Shoot me.”

Griffith put away his revolver, grabbed the Taser he had been issued less than three months earlier and fired it.

Even after he was handcuffed and left to lie on the ground as deputies processed the crime scene, Drake had remained combative, finally kicking Deputy Robert Bushing in the leg, as Bushing stood guard over him. That attack earned him the second assault charge.

Asking on Thursday that his client be given credit for the time he has served since the arrest, defense attorney Stephen Oser asked that Drake be released on probation.

Acknowledging the defendant’s problems with weapons, booze and drugs, Oser said, “Other than that, he’s a wonderful fellow, an outstanding citizen, just a nice guy.”

Drake was sentenced to five years, with two suspended, for the charge of unlawfully discharging a firearm in an occupied dwelling; five years, with four suspended, for the assault on Deputy Griffith; and three years, with all but six months suspended, for the assault on Deputy Bushing.

He must also pay court costs and nearly $10,000 in restitution to the homeowner for damage caused during his rampage with the gun that day. The judge further ordered that he receive mental-health and substance-abuse treatment.