A Gulfport man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for shooting a Gulfport police officer twice, causing life-threatening wounds.
Corey Johnson, 23, admitted Wednesday he shot Dolton Bradley twice on Nov. 23, 2014.
Bradley, who had been a sworn officer for just a few months at the time, never drew his weapon. Because of the shooting, he was unable to return to police work.
The 4:20 a.m. shooting happened after officers attempted to stop a car with an expired tag. Johnson, who was armed, was riding in the car. The officers followed the car from 20th Street and 42nd Avenue until it stopped in the 2000 block of 46th Avenue.
Johnson and the driver ran away and the officers gave chase, a prosecutor said.
“Officer Bradley was doing what we expect police officers to do,” Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois said. “He faced every officer’s nightmare.”
Bradley was simply trying to get the gun and take Johnson into custody, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burrell said.
The two struggled on the ground and Johnson shot Bradley twice in the abdomen.
Johnson admitted Bradley was shot while trying to restrain him and take away his gun.
Bradley’s protective vest “rode up” on him in the struggle and left his stomach unprotected, Burrell said.
Bradley was able to grab the 9mm handgun and throw it aside and police later recovered it, he said.
Bradley suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs and colon damage that required removing part of his colon. He had internal bleeding and lost 30 percent of his blood, Burrell said.
A doctor would have testified Bradley lived only because two patrol officers drove him to an emergency room, Burrell said. Officers Brad Sumrall and Bryan Watson saved Bradley’s life, he said.
Johnson said he had gone to a club with a couple of friends and woke up in the back of the car. He said he saw police lights so he ran.
Johnson told Bourgeois he knew Bradley was a police officer when he ran.
Johnson was so combative it took a third officer to take him into custody, Burrell said. It was then they learned Bradley was wounded, he said.
Johnson disagreed, saying he had quit resisting after he fired the shots.
Bourgeois asked why he shot the officer. Johnson maintained the gun went off.
“He was trying to take my gun,” he said. “He was on top of me and there was nothing I could do. I wasn’t being combative.”
When asked to speak outside of questioning, Johnson said, “I’d like to apologize to the officer.”
Attempted murder charge dismissed
A Harrison County grand jury had indicted Johnson on an attempted murder charge and an unrelated drug-distribution charge.
The District Attorney’s Office agreed to a guilty plea on a lesser charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, a charge that fit the elements of the crime.
Johnson also pleaded guilty to a charge of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. He admitted he had crack in his grandmother’s home on Florida Avenue and intended to sell it.
Bourgeois gave Johnson maximum penalties on both charges, ordering eight years for the drug charges. He ordered the two prison terms to be served concurrently for a total of 30 years.
These are Johnson’s first felony convictions.
The state had asked the judge to give Johnson a total of 38 years.
Bradley was a new officer
Bradley had been a sworn officer several months but had not yet gone to a police academy, Burrell said. He tried to return to work but could not handle the physical requirements because of his wounds and has chosen a different job.
Police Chief Leonard Papania and Deputy Police Chief Chris Loposser sat beside Bradley during the hearing.
Afterward, Papania said he was pleased with the conviction.
“The night this occurred, Officer Bradley was doing what a police officer is supposed to do,” he said. “In spite of that, that young man decided to commit a crime and today he has answered for it. We’re pleased with how the system works.”
Several of Johnson’s family members sat in the courtroom, where six armed deputies had positioned themselves between where Johnson stood before the judge to the other end of the courtroom. Several family members wept as the judge imposed the sentence and bailiffs took him from the courtroom.
“The actions of Dolton Bradley and his fellow officers that night were nothing less than heroic,” District Attorney Joel Smith said. “They were a true representation of the highest and best qualities of our local law enforcement. It is vital to the success of our community that we support the men and women that protect us.”
Burrell prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker.