A Craven County man was sentenced to up to 10 1/2 years in prison Wednesday after a jury convicted him on five charges in connection with the shooting of three Havelock police officers last year.


A Craven County man was sentenced to up to 10 1/2 years in prison Wednesday after a jury convicted him on five charges in connection with the shooting of three Havelock police officers last year.



Following less than an hour of deliberation, the five-man, seven-woman jury found Richard Jules Berry, 61, guilty on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer for the injuries to Havelock Police officers Lt. Brian Borton, Sgt. Jim Fahnestock and Patrol Officer Loren Boone, one count of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill for his actions against Borton, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury for his actions against Fahnestock.



Judge Benjamin G. Alford sentenced Berry to between 75 and 126 months in prison, with credit for time served as he sat in jail awaiting trial.



“Law enforcement officers face dangers every day to protect our safety, and when they are attacked, my office will do all we can to hold their attackers responsible,” District Attorney Scott Thomas said after the verdict. “These officers risked their own lives to assist Mr. Berry, who was threatening to harm himself. They entered his residence to help him, but walked out as gunshot victims. These officers have returned to work to continue in their chosen career as law enforcement officers.”



Berry appeared remorseful yet resigned as Alford handed down the sentence.



Before his sentence was read, Berry, who has no other criminal history, addressed the court and apologized for his “weak moment” when his quality of life was low enough to want to end it. He apologized to the officers and their families for their injuries and the inconvenience he caused them. He then apologized to his own family for the pain he had caused them.



“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” he said. “I only meant to hurt myself.”



The incident occurred at Berry’s home at 407 Webb Blvd. in Havelock on Feb. 14, 2013, when a woman living with him called 911 to report a shot had been fired in the home.



According to Defense Attorney Michael Mills, Berry, who had recently had serious medical issues, had fallen out of his bed and the woman did not want to help him until he put the guns away.



According to testimony, Borton and Boone entered the Berry residence with guns drawn and, after a sweep of the residence, found the defendant in a back bedroom.



“Mr. Berry was lying on his side completely nude with a gun in his hand,” Borton said, and Boone and Fahnestock later corroborated that in their own testimony.



Borton testified that he tried to talk Berry into surrendering his weapons, but Berry said he did not want to talk to Borton but to God. Borton said that later the officers heard two other gun shots with Berry saying later, “I don’t want to talk. I just want to bleed out.”



Borton said the officers then slowly pushed open the door to the bedroom.



“We decided to enter to render aid thinking he had injured himself,” Borton testified.



Borton said that he and Fahnestock had both holstered their guns as they observed Berry on the bed for about 15 seconds. Berry then turned slightly and brought one of the guns up to his throat.



“As he was turning over I see a smile on his face and his guns pointed at us,” Borton testified.



Both officers lunged for Berry in an attempt to gain control of the two guns, but Berry fired several more shots, one of which grazed Borton, he testified.



Fahnestock testified that six or seven shots were fired during the struggle. While Borton and Fahnestock were attempting to subdue Berry, Boone used Fahnestock’s Taser on Berry, “once or twice … for two to five seconds.”



Mills told jury members that suicide was not a crime in North Carolina, and the officers didn’t have to enter Berry’s room; to which Assistant District Attorney Karen Hobbs later argued: “The officers only went in when (Berry) said he was going to ‘bleed out.’ What kind of officer would stand outside and let him bleed? One that shouldn’t wear the uniform.”



Hobbs then cited N.C. General Statute, Article 15, Urgent Necessity, in which an officer can enter a premises if the officer believes that doing so is necessary to save a life or prevent serious bodily harm.



“The case was admirably prepared and presented by Assistant District Attorney Karen Hobbs, and as a result, the evidence in the case led the jury to a proper guilty verdict,” Thomas said. “We are pleased with the jury’s verdict. We asked them to listen carefully and evaluate the evidence and return verdicts of guilty, which is what they did, and that the defendant received a significant prison sentence in this case.”



Fahnestock, who was the most seriously injured of the officers and required surgery to his hand, still has some limitation of movement as well as some pain in his hand.



“I think justice was served today,” Fahnestock said after the trial. “I am glad it is over and we can move on.”



Cathryn Lindsay is a reporter for the Sun Journal.