A Richmond man who blindsided a state trooper with a punch that knocked him down, and briefly out, last year was convicted of the malicious wounding of the officer Wednesday.
In addition to the attack on trooper Raymond Barrett, Michael D. White, 31, was also convicted of two counts of assault and battery on another man in the same incident and faces up to 32 years in prison when sentenced July 18.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals, who tried the case, tossed out a firearms charge stemming from the discovery of a firearm under the front seat of a car White had occupied.
The Dec. 4 attack began around 2:30 p.m., when Barrett, on duty in a work zone at Midlothian Turnpike and German School Road, spotted White throwing trash from a Cadillac and involved in what appeared to be a confrontation with a woman.
Barrett, with the state police for 14 years, testified that he pulled his marked state police car behind the Cadillac and started toward White when White dashed for the Cadillac got behind the steering wheel and started reaching under the seat.
“My heart began to race, adrenaline started pumping,” said Barrett, concerned for his safety. He said he unsnapped the strap on his holster and had his hand on the handgun when, “I probably said, ‘Let me see your (expletive) hands.’ ”
He said White initially cooperated but began acting threatening when ordered to pick up trash in an area away from the Cadillac.
At some point the woman who had been with White approached the Cadillac and Barrett said he turned his attention to her. “I turned my back on him for a split second,” said Barrett.
He said he was then punched from behind by White. He said he heard the impact of the blow and saw a flash. The next thing he knew, White, a much larger man, was on top of him and continuing to punch his head.
“I remember I said, ‘Don’t kill me,’ ” said Barrett.
A witness, Anthony B. Smith, testified that Barrett was behind White when White wheeled around and struck the trooper with his fist knocking him down.
“We call it the sucker-punch . . . the officer didn’t know it was coming,” said Smith.
Smith said he saw White continue to punch Barrett in the head even as the officer was on the ground.
Barrett suffered two gashes in his hairline requiring stitches as well as abrasions, a partial black eye and facial swelling. He was treated at a hospital and off-duty for two weeks.
White, a four-time convicted felon, fled on foot and hid in the area but was captured by police several hours later.
White took the stand Wednesday and admitted hitting the trooper and the other man, but said he struck the trooper out of fear for his life. He also said he felt angry and humiliated. He testified that he was cleaning up a spilled soda in the car with paper towels and had thrown them from the vehicle. He said that when Barrett arrived, he picked up the litter that he had made but refused to pick up trash nearby that he had nothing to do with.
White testified that Barrett was aggressive and called him racial slurs. He said he initially hit Barrett believing the trooper was going for his gun and that he hit him twice more when the trooper was on the ground so he would have time to flee.
Colette McEachin, a deputy commonwealth’s attorney, told Snukals that nothing White claimed happened justified his attack on Barrett even though the judge might look askance at why White may have been made to pick up, “this litter and not that litter.”
“When the trooper was not looking, he hits him,” she told Snukals. And then when the trooper is unable to defend himself, White keeps hitting him.
Emilee M. Hasbrouck, one of White’s lawyers, told Snukals that, White, “feared for his life that day.” She said that Barrett first approached White with his hand on his gun and was making White pick up trash White had nothing to do with.
Hasbrouck said the obscene language the trooper admitted using at the outset of the confrontation was aggressive. She asked that the malicious wounding charge be reduced to assault and battery.
Snukals declined, though she said it was unfortunate that the litter got involved. “I will tell you that bothers me,” she said, indicating she may take it into account at sentencing. Nevertheless, she said, there was no reasonable provocation for what White did and she found him guilty.