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Man sentenced for shooting at police

Thanks officers for ‘saving my life’

Boardman police Chief Todd Werth speaks to Judge John Durkin in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court during the plea and sentencing for Stephen B. Wilson. In the background are Boardman police officers and one trooper from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

YOUNGSTOWN — Stephen B. Wilson, 53, received an 18- to 23 1/2-year prison sentence Friday for firing twice at police early Sept. 7, 2019, on Market Street in Boardman.

Police returned fire the second time — about 10 minutes after firing the first time — incapacitating him.

Wilson, who has a history of mental health issues, apologized to officers during the hearing and even thanked an officer who secured his legs during the arrest for “saving my life.”

Wilson pleaded guilty to all 15 counts he faced, 10 of them felonious assault for the 10 Boardman police officers and state troopers there when Wilson fired the second time. Wilson’s last address before the incident was a Boardman motel.

Judge John Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court gave Wilson his sentence.

With about 15 Boardman police officers and a state trooper seated in the gallery, Boardman police Chief Todd Werth stood before Durkin and described the incident.

It began when a Boardman officer saw Wilson walking in the roadway on Market Street near Gertrude Avenue around 12:15 a.m. and advised Wilson to use the sidewalk for his safety.

As the officer drove away, Wilson fired a shot from a pistol at the officer, hitting the back of the cruiser.

The officer radioed for help, and a passing Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper came to assist, the chief said. The trooper and officer both gave Wilson commands to drop his gun, but he just started walking again north on Market Street.

Eventually there were 10 officers there following Wilson on foot and issuing commands for him to drop his weapon. About 10 minutes and several blocks of moving later, Wilson approached a busy convenience store, Werth said.

Then Wilson fired at officers again. Officers returned fire, incapacitating Wilson.

“He was quickly secured and was immediately provided medical care by the officers and troopers he had just tried to kill,” Werth said.

“This immediate care quite possibly saved Mr. Wilson’s life. Of note is that even though Mr. Wilsojn remained a direct threat to the officers, troopers and the public, they showed great restraint and professionalism and only resorted to the use of deadly force as an absolute last resort.”

Werth said Wilson acted against an officer “who was concerned about his safety on the roadway.” He explained that there had been three recent fatalities in the township involving pedestrians struck by vehicles on heavily traveled state roads, including one on Market Street.

Wilson’s attorney, J.P. Laczko, told Durkin he has known Wilson for decades and represented him when he was convicted in 1994, when he was convicted of complicity to robbery.

“I’ve talked to him as a citizen on the streets,” Laczko said. He said the person that police encountered that night is not the person he has known. But Wilson was using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate his mental health issues, Laczko said.

“I don’t believe it was his intent to kill officers,” Laczko said.

“I just want to apologize to all of the officers who were there that night and thank the officer who tied my legs and saved my life,” Wilson said.

In addition to felonious assault, Wilson pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm on or near prohibited premises, being a felon in possession of a firearm, obstructing official business and vandalism.

Wilson gets credit for 406 days already in jail, but his prior-conviction specification means he must serve his entire sentence in prison.

The judge said he often tells people he would not want to be a first responder, such as police officer or firefighter. “The fact that they put their life on the line every day is something I respect,” he said.

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