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Man pleads guilty to wounding Durham officer

Posted December 9, 2009
Updated December 10, 2009

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— A Durham man wept in court Wednesday as he tried to explain how he shot a police officer who was responding to reports of a break-in and gunfire in July.

Thomas Rashawn Monroe, 23, pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and common law obstruction of justice in the July 2 shooting of Officer D.J. Youmans.

"I'm sorry. I didn't intentionally do no crime," Monroe said. "I just ask that you forgive me. More than accept my apology, forgive me."

Durham Officer D.J. Youmans Officer: Gunman who shot through door was reckless

Youmans, who joined the Durham Police Department in June after spending two years with the New York Police Department, was working with a training officer when a report came in about gunfire and a break-in at South Square Townhomes, 3300 Shannon Road.

Monroe fired his gun through his front door as the two officers approached, and Youmans, 32, was hit once in the stomach when the bullet went under his protective vest.

Public defender Lawrence Campbell said Monroe was only trying to defend his family after someone fired about 30 shots into his apartment that night. Monroe was inside with his mother, sister, brother and niece, Campbell said.

Monroe's mother called 911, but no one ever told her officers were on their way, Campbell said. Also, no one in the apartment heard the officers announce their presence, he said.

"He can see shadows moving. He can hear people talking. He does not know that it's the police," Campbell said.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried said the officers knocked on the door and announced their presence. Monroe's actions were more reckless than a case of self-defense, he said.

Monroe said he thought someone was trying to kill his whole family.

"I was scared. I didn't know if they was just going to bust the door down. I didn't hear the police knock," he said. "So I just let out a shot. I didn't know it hit him. I didn't know it hit anybody. I was just going to scare them away."

Police have never figured out who shot into the apartment.

Youmans underwent surgery at Duke University Hospital and spent more than three months recovering from the injury before returning to duty in October.

He asked that Monroe get the maximum prison sentence, saying that his injuries were still more severe than the toughest sentence.

"One of the things that stands out to me is the act of recklessness, whether it be me or anybody coming up to the door," he said during the sentencing. "It's hard for me or any reasonable person to justify the actions of shooting through a closed door, not knowing who is behind that door, not knowing whose life you put in jeopardy.

"This is not 'Rambo.' This is not television. Once you fire a round, you have to be responsible for where that round goes," he said.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Stephens compared the case to that of Peyton Strickland, the Durham teen who was killed three years ago when a New Hanover County deputy fired through a closed door as authorities were serving a search warrant. A grand jury declined to indict the deputy in the case, the judge noted.

"There are legal questions here that, if it had been tried out, that frankly are legitimate, and I don't know what a jury would have done in this case," Stephens said.

He sentenced Monroe to 29 to 44 months in prison on the charges but suspended all but six months of the jail time. Monroe also must serve three years on probation.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said he hopes the sentence sends a message that gun violence won't be tolerated.

But Andy Miller, president of the North Carolina Sheriff-Police Alliance, said sending Monroe to jail for six months does nothing to discourage future assaults on law enforcement officers.

Monroe has been in jail since his arrest, meaning he has already served five of his six months behind bars.

Cynthia Bridges, Monroe's mother, said she had hoped her son would be home by Christmas, but she said he would put his life back together after finishing his jail time.

"We're sorry that the police officer got hurt. We didn't mean to hurt anybody. It was an accident, and we are really sorry about that," Bridges said.

110 Comments

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  • james27613 Dec 11, 2009

    I'm glad you are not in law enforcement, really I am.

    How would you know if you got the bad guy(s) if you fired
    through a closed door ? Never mind we both know the answer.

    >>
    If I was a cop I would shoot through the doors and then enter the room. Dead people can't kill you. I would ask questions later

  • manofjustice Dec 11, 2009

    If I was a cop I would shoot through the doors and then enter the room. Dead people can't kill you. I would ask questions later. My life is too precious to me for some dayum foolishness. I am sick of hearing innocent people getting shot for no apparent reasons. I don't want to be a victim. Shoot first, then look at the whites of their eyes and then ask questions. Dead people don't lie.

  • james27613 Dec 11, 2009

    If you hold a CCW then you know you should not fire
    through a closed door ! CCW permit is not a permit to ignore common sense and basic firearms training.

    If you do not know the target you do not fire, period.

    What if the Boy Scouts were knocking on doors to sell gifts ?

    Or the UPS guy or the FedEx gal ?

  • mad_dash Dec 10, 2009

    I think there is a lot more to this story.. although it WAS his right to shoot through the door to protect himself and his family (if the LEO didn't annouce who they were). (I too have a conceal carry permit for NC.) However, usually if you are an UPSTANDING citizen.. people wouldnt be firing shots into your house in the first place.. hmmm

  • thepeopleschamp Dec 10, 2009

    "Unless of course, the one doing the shooting is a cop! Then, of course, that action is justified because the officer "just wants to make it home to see his family". I am tearing up." yellow_hat

    It sounds like the Durham officer has the same point of view as you do about shooting threw a closed door. I guess long as the officer is the one getting shot you are okay with it. Try to follow this, this Durham officer had nothing whatsoever to do with any shooting that happened in Wilmington. Why judge him based on the actions of others?

  • arbuckler Dec 10, 2009

    To all those who say he was reasonable in firing when he heard someone outside his door after someone had shot towards his house, and that you would have done the same thing:

    Consider this scenario.. What if it was a neighbor's child who was coming up to the door or trying to get in to get help because a family member had been injured in the earlier shooting. It could have just as easily been a child or innocent citizen at his door as it was the police. True, it could have been someone intent on doing him harm, but obviously he didn't take the time to find out. Think about that before you decide it's ok to shoot at an unknown person outside your home. There have been cases of parents killing their children who were sneaking back in the house after sneaking out earlier in the night. You must identify your targets BEFORE you shoot, not after!

  • mrduright Dec 10, 2009

    For once the legal System worked good job!

  • bb2006 Dec 10, 2009

    It's amazing to me to read a lot of these comments. As it seems, whomever shoots through a closed door is responsible for their actions, whether they are law enforcement or not. Which is exactly the reason we did not fire back that night, even though there was an obvious threat to our safety coming from INSIDE the residence we had gone to help. Have there been Officers who have made mistakes? Yes. Have there been Officers who have been punished for those mistakes? Yes. Have there been Officers who have not been justly punished for those mistakes? Yes. The same inconsistencies happen throughout the justice system, and not just when it involves a Police Officer who did something wrong. "The justice system is flawed" does not support any reasoning that because we failed to properly charge the Officer in that case we are going to take it easy on you in this case.

  • clintoflannagan Dec 10, 2009

    One more thing. For those of you who are saying that the officer identified himself as a cop so the guy shouldn't have shot him, one of the most common ploys used by criminals to get into houses is to identify themselves as police to get the homeowner to open the door.

  • nccopwife Dec 10, 2009

    As a wife of an officer that survived being shot I am once again shocked at our legal system. How can someone only receive 6 months for shooting someone let alone a Government Official? What if it had been a child at the door? Our legal system needs to be fixed! This is yet another blow to all LEOs coming on the heels of Sgt Brown that was killed on Tues, in Martin County.

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