A jury Tuesday found an Oklahoma City man guilty of a role in the ambush of a police officer last year even though his older brother tried to take all the blame.
Alex Mercado, 18, was found guilty of shooting with intent to kill. Jurors chose a punishment of three years in prison.
Jurors acquitted his mother, Vilma Escalante, 53, of the same offense.
“I'm glad the system works,” said her attorney, Cesar Armenta.
The admitted gunman, Hector Escalante, 19, pleaded guilty before trial to shooting with intent to kill and to a weapons offense.
“I shot a cop,” he said then.
Oklahoma County District Judge Don Deason will decide Hector Escalante's punishment at a sentencing in November. The judge could impose up to life in prison for the shooting.
Shot six times
The police officer, Katie Lawson, was shot six times on Aug. 29, 2010, after helping an Oklahoma County sheriff's deputy with a traffic stop. Her assailant used an assault rifle. She returned fire and survived.
“I thought I might pass out and fall to the ground and never wake up,” she testified last week during the trial.
Lawson described for the jury injuries to her arm, legs, stomach, back and head. She was wearing a bullet-resistant vest.
Prosecutors alleged the two brothers acted together in a failed effort to free their father, who had just been arrested on a drunken driving complaint outside the family home. Prosecutors said they feared he would be deported. Prosecutors said their mother participated in the plan.
Hector Escalante testified Tuesday he acted alone. He said his brother, then 16, actually tried to stop him. He said he lost it after his father's arrest and decided to shoot somebody. “I got mad. I flipped out,” he said. He testified he strapped on the assault rifle inside the house, left through a back door and then went out the backyard through a gate.
He said he was surprised to see the police officer there “so I raised the gun and started firing.”
Lawson had driven a short distance away from the house after helping with the traffic stop. The boy's father was in the deputy's car at the front of the house.
Jurors were instructed they could find Alex Mercado guilty — even if he did not pull the trigger himself — if he aided in or encouraged the shooting.
‘Not a lone act'
In closing arguments, the prosecution contended the evidence at trial clearly showed the shooting was part of a plan and not a lone act. They pointed to a neighbor's testimony that the brothers and their mother were talking in Spanish before the shooting. Prosecutors said the witness heard them say, “We need to get him out. We need to get him out now.”
The mother's attorneys insisted she had no knowledge of what her oldest son would do. The attorneys contended she had moved out of the house to get away from her husband's abuse and drinking and didn't even know about the assault rifle inside. They said she just happened to be at the house at the time of the arrest because she was dropping off one son.
Both brothers and their mother also had faced a conspiracy count but the judge Tuesday dismissed that count.
Lawson was emotional after the verdict, District Attorney David Prater said.
“She sat through a week and a half of trial now and it's time for those emotions to come out,” Prater said. “Police officers are human beings and those emotions are there. They just have to hide them most of the time. … She's a true hero. That word is overused in society. They call everyone a hero these days but Katie Lawson's a hero.”