Firing on cop triggers 48-year sentence
Despite pleas from his mother and brother, a man who was convicted of firing 15 shots at a Colorado state trooper last April was sentenced in Ninth District Court on Monday to 48 years in prison.
The shooting occurred around 6:30 p.m. on April 14, 2001, after a car chase was handed off from a Rio Blanco sheriff’s deputy to Colorado State Patrol trooper Dave Evridge.
Evridge chased Brandon Lee Meraz at speeds approaching 100 mph to the top of Douglas Pass on the border of Mesa and Rio Blanco counties, Colorado State Patrol Capt. Gary Torgerson said.
“He was running people off the road and crossing the yellow line,” Torgerson said of Meraz.
Evridge finally caught up to Meraz when the vehicle Meraz was driving went out of control and spun around to face the trooper. Evridge pulled his vehicle up nose-to-nose on Meraz’s vehicle, blocking him in.
Evridge immediately drew his gun on Meraz, then leaned into his car to turn off his siren so he could communicate with Meraz. As he was leaned in, Torgerson said, Evridge’s windshield exploded from gunfire.
Meraz was shooting at Evridge through his own windshield, with several of the 15 shots coming within inches of Evridge’s head. Evridge finally got some shots off and he hit Meraz with a glancing blow to the forehead that lodged in, but did not penetrate, his skull. The force of the shot knocked him down. Evridge was not hurt.
“By the grace of God,” Torgerson said.
During Monday’s hearing in front of Ninth District Judge J.E. DeVilbiss, the trooper who found himself in the line of fire that day spoke to the court.
“Rehab is not going to work. Mr. Meraz has no respect for the law and no respect for other people’s lives,” Evridge said.
James Meraz told the court his brother had a hard life, was sexually abused as a youth, and drugs made him a different person.
“I know he’s very, very sorry he fired on that officer,” James Meraz said. “Being in that state of mind, it wasn’t even him.”
Their mother, Elaine Meraz, said Brandon had a very difficult childhood, but that he didn’t mean to hurt anyone but himself.
Both asked the judge to consider a lighter sentence.
“Please don’t take away his life for 48 years – please don’t,” James Meraz said.
But Ninth District Attorney Mac Myers said Meraz was speeding recklessly down Colorado Highway 139 when he was pulled over by trooper Evridge.
“He was a danger and a hazard to every other driver,” Myers said.
“The defendant’s criminal history shows blatant disregard for the law,” Myers said.
When he spoke on behalf of himself, Meraz, 32, also pleaded with DeVilbiss to give him a lighter sentence.
“I know I have to be punished for what I did, but I don’t feel 48 is right,” he said.
But DeVilbiss did.
Torgerson said the sentence was just, if a little short.
“My opinion is that he should never get out of jail,” he said. “But the judge and the DA did an outstanding job in getting him sentenced to the maximum … I think it sends a strong message that we won’t tolerate this as a society.”
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