Aug. 02--FORT WORTH -- A 27-year-old man with a long criminal record was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for shooting a Fort Worth police officer last summer.
Joe Nathan Haywood pled guilty this week to shooting Officer Clifford Hankins but asked a Tarrant County jury to decide his sentence. The minimum possible was 15 years in prison. Jurors deliberated about 30 minutes before returning with the maximum penalty -- life.
He was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, according to the Tarrant County district attorney's office.
Prosecutors Joe Shannon and Greg Miller urged jurors to give Haywood a lengthy sentence, while defense attorney Tim Moore suggested they consider Haywood's difficult childhood and the fact that he pled guilty and took responsibility for the shooting.
Hankins, a 17-year police veteran, testified Tuesday that he encountered Haywood on July 7, 2011, while responding to a call about a suspicious person wearing a black hooded sweatshirt walking around outside a bank on East Berry Street. He said he called out twice to Haywood to stop walking and remove his hands from his pockets.
Haywood suddenly wheeled around and "there was a big old gun pointed at me," Hankins testified.
As Haywood fired at him, Hankins said, he lunged behind his patrol car, but the bullet struck his lower back, damaging a nerve and leading to months of physical therapy. He can no longer work on patrol but has an office job at the police department.
Miller told jurors during closing arguments that the case illustrates the risk police officers face every day. Most people flee from danger, but police officers are trained to head straight into it, he said.
Whose job is it to "protect the protectors?" he asked jurors. "Today, this week, it is you."
Shannon suggested that Hankins prevented another crime by confronting Haywood, whose criminal career began when he was a juvenile. Tarrant County court records show 11 convictions since Haywood was 18. He had been released from Tarrant County Jail nine days before he shot Hankins. Shannon reminded jurors that Haywood was walking outside a bank in a hooded sweatshirt when the temperature was above 100. After he was arrested, officers found he that was carrying a gun, gloves and a pillow case, he said.
"He's not out there sunbathing," Shannon said.
Moore asked the jury to consider Haywood's upbringing. His father was behind bars much of his childhood and his parents were drug addicts. Haywood grew up with "no structure, no discipline and no one to guide him," Moore said. "He never had a chance."
Alex Branch, 817-390-7689
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