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Oklahoma City man found guilty of role in police officer shooting; mother acquitted

BY NOLAN CLAY AND TIM WILLERT Modified: October 4, 2011 at 10:17 pm •  Published: October 4, 2011

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.

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