Jury gives ex-con life for shooting officer

Joe Nathan Haywood III

Jurors deliberated just 30 minutes on Wednesday before sentencing a 26- year-old man to life in prison for shooting a Fort Worth police officer last summer.

Officer Cliff Hankins, a 16-year police veteran, was shot in the lower back, but survived.

On Monday, shortly after the jury was seated for his trial, defendant Joe Haywood pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on a public servant, allowing the trial to immediately proceed to the punishment phase.

During the three-day trial, Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Joe Shannon and Criminal Division Deputy Chief Greg Miller presented evidence that on July 7, 2011, Officer Hankins attempted to speak with Haywood, who was walking in front of a barbecue restaurant on East Berry Street wearing a black hooded sweatshirt in 105-degree weather.

When Officer Hankins asked Haywood to take his hands out of his pockets and stop and talk with him, Haywood spun around with a 9mm handgun and suddenly shot Officer Hankins.

Haywood fled on foot and was later found and arrested in a brushy area near some railroad tracks on Mississippi Avenue.

He had a gun, gloves and a pillow case in his possession, suggesting he was about to commit a robbery when Officer Hankins made contact with him.

During the trial, which was held in state district Judge Sharen Wilson’s court, prosecutors also presented evidence of Haywood’s lengthy criminal history, which began when he was a juvenile. He has more than a dozen prior convictions, including drug possessions, burglaries, and assaults on family members and police officers.

Haywood had been released from the county jail just nine days before he shot Officer Hankins.

In addition to the maximum sentence, jurors put an exclamation point on their verdict by assessing the maximum $10,000 fine.

“We wanted this case tried to a jury to get an expression from the public about these critical incidents,” said District Attorney Joe Shannon. “This sentence makes a loud and clear statement as to how the public feels about assaults on the men and women who risk their lives daily to protect the rest of us.”

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