A judge called his incarceration a waste of taxpayer money but, lamenting he couldn’t “legislate from the bench,” sentenced a Spokane Army veteran to nine years in prison after he tried to commit suicide by cop.
Craig Burton was shot by Spokane police last May in the very first officer involved shooting caught on body cam video. Burton, a former Army combat medic, survived his injuries and was recently convicted of second degree assault charges.
Even though the only who got hurt during this standoff was Burton, who was shot once in the stomach by police, he got slammed in court with a trio of mandatory deadly weapons enhancements thanks to a “Get tough on armed crime” law voters approved back in 1995, Burton got a punishment typically reserved for robbers and rapists.
Burton, 26, who worked at the Spokane VA Medical Center, started contemplating suicide after doctors put him on an anti-depressant called Paxil.
“I should have never been put on that drug. When I made my first suicide attempt, I should have been immediately taken off that drug,” Burton said.
Instead, doctors raised Burton’s dosage and on May 6 he felt he had run out of answers and triggered a standoff with Spokane police
“I knew if I walked out with a gun, that’s not enough to get shot,” he said.
Burton didn’t want to kill himself thinking that would keep his kids from getting his life insurance, so he raised the ante, firing his gun 11 times during the standoff. Seconds later, police shot Burton stomach.
Even though Burton’s gun was aimed at and his bullets struck a tree his use of a firearm qualified him for a trio of deadly weapons enhancements, three years for each officer involved for a total of nine years.
“What do you think nine years in prison is going to do for me? Because I’m not charged with these crimes because I tried to hurt somebody, I’m charged with these crimes because I tried to hurt myself,” he said.
Burton doesn’t blame police for shooting him and admits he created a dangerous situation for everyone involved but thinks nine years in prison is an over the top punishment that really serves no purpose.
“Not gonna run away from it. It’s my duty as a law abiding citizen to face the consequences of my actions, the consequences may not be justifiable but it’s what our law is right now and you have to abide by it,” he said.
Burton’s attorney, John Stine, says he’ll ask Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to commute his client’s sentence. Stine says deadly weapons enhancements have reduced violent crime but says Burton’s case is a sign they should not always be mandatory.
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