BY JENNIFER MANN • stltoday.com •A judge on Friday ordered life in prison for the man who admitted to shooting and critically injuring St. Louis police officer Lucas Roethlisberger in a senseless act of violence that even he couldn't explain.
The attorney for Kim Dwayne Cobb, Jr., 21, said his client "made a fateful decision on Oct. 13, 2010 that changed his life and the lives of all involved and the sad thing is, he doesn't know why."
Cobb Jr., 21, of the 4700 block of Lewis Place, fired at Roethlisberger three times, hitting him in the neck, arm and his bullet-proof vest, while being patted down during a traffic stop. Cobb's only trouble with the law before that was an arrest for marijuana possession, his attorney, Lynne Perkins said. Perkins said Cobb was under the influence of marijuana that night.
But St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Dennis Schaumann said that was no excuse.
"In this life, Mr. Cobb, we all have to make choices and you made a horrible choice, first of all, by carrying a gun and second of all, for using it," he said.
As to the question of why, the judge added, "I have my own theory: the officers were wearing blue and no other reason."
"This is happening too much in society," he continued. "It's got to stop."
Cobb's sentencing on two counts each of assault on a law enforcement officer and armed criminal action garnered him concurrent life sentences. He had entered a blind plea on March 27. His attorney asked for 18 years.
When Schaumann announced his decision, he had to quiet the courtroom, which was filled with loud clapping. "This is not a celebration," he admonished the crowd.
As he was being led away in handcuffs, Cobb turned toward the crowd of officers in the courtroom and started yelling and swearing, prompting tearful cries from his own family, who yelled," Kim! Kim! You know you're not like that!"
Earlier, a palpably angry Roethlisberger took the stand for a victim's impact statement.
"You are a coward," he told Cobb, with clipped words. "I have kids for goddsakes. You could have killed me."
Officer Luke Kallal, who was less-seriously wounded in the incident, also spoke, stopping several times to collect himself.
Police have said that the incident occurred after the two stopped a car in which Cobb was riding on Enright Avenue, for traveling with the headlights off. The officers learned that Cobb was a well-known gang member who was possibly wanted in connection with other crimes, according to police records.
As Roethlisberger tried to search Cobb outside the car, Cobb pulled out a gun and fired shots over his shoulder. Roethlisberger was hit first in the neck, then, while he was lying on the ground, in his bullet-resistant vest and in his right arm.
Kallal, wounded in the leg, returned fire as Cobb escaped. Cobb, shot in the back, was brought by friends to the hospital and then was arrested.
Assistant Circuit Attorney Melissa Gilliam said the fact that Cobb continued shooting showed he intended to kill the officers.
Roethlisberger's wife, Courtney, told of having two officers come to her house that day telling her she needed to rush to the hospital. She grabbed her sleeping two-year-old and went to the hospital, where she saw an 8th district cruiser parked outside, ridden with bullet holes and its lights flashing.
"The first thing I said is, 'Is he dead?'" she recalled in court.
Courtney Roethlisberger told of the weeks that followed where she slept in a cot in the hospital, staying with her husband while he recovered. She said he had to relearn everything. He suffered two strokes, one while undergoing a 45-minute surgery that required extracting a vein from his groin to be placed in his neck, where the bullet ripped through his carotid artery.
"Was it worth it?" she asked Cobb, staring him down. "Because look at you now. Look at you! Is this where you wanted to be? Because this isn't where I wanted to be."
Roethlisberger has since returned to full duty in the 8th District. After the hearing, he said he was pleased "we got justice." He said Cobb's parting behavior "just goes to show the type of person he really is."