Man receives sentence for shooting officer
HUNTINGTON, WV -- Anthony Demonte Jennings, convicted of shooting Huntington Police Officer Ryan Bentley, received three to 15 years in prison as set forth by state law.
Bentley, a nine-year veteran, spoke at Wednesday's sentencing hearing. It was his first public comment about the March 4 shooting.
"I thought I was done," he testified. "I was laying on the ground in a completely vulnerable position. Basically, I thought I was going to be executed."
Jennings, a Huntington High School student known to many as "A-Train," apologized to Bentley and his family. The 19-year-old's involvement in the shooting surprised Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson, who presided over a murder case that convicted a man for killing Jennings' father on March 1, 2003.
"I know I made a mistake," Jennings said. "I know I should be punished."
Jennings was flanked by extra security Tuesday, while Bentley was joined by a brotherhood of law enforcement more than 20 officers strong.
The shooting took place in an alley between the 1700 blocks of 10th and Doulton avenues in Huntington. Bentley had approached a group of people not knowing an armed robbery was in progress.
Bentley recalled the chase. He got close enough to tackle the suspect, when Jennings twisted and a muzzle flash went off in the officer's face from above the suspect's shoulder. It struck Bentley's neck a millimeter from his carotid artery.
Bentley believed that gunshot alone would have halted the chase, but Jennings turned around and continued to fire. It forced the officer to take evasive action and perform a tumble roll, which is a defensive technique taught to officers so that they become a moving target.
The gunfire continued. One shot struck his leg, going through the sciatic nerve.
"He chose to come back," Bentley testified. "I don't think it was an act of being scared. I think it was an act of, I was already down, and he just wanted to finish me off."
Ferguson said he believed Bentley could have easily died, elevating the case to first-degree murder.
"I don't know what was going on in your mind," he said to Jennings. "I don't know how you expected to get away with what you did."
Bentley returned to work in late May/early June, but his recovery is not complete. The sciatic nerve injury initially kept him from walking. His leg remains 50 percent numb, and nerve endings in his neck are completely numb.
The state Legislature passed a proclamation honoring Bentley's service, his police department gave him its medal of valor, and the Cincinnati Reds honored his bravery during pre-game ceremonies on June 7.
Jennings admitted to the attempted murder allegation, but he continues to deny two counts of first-degree robbery. A pre-trial hearing is set for Thursday, Aug. 20. Each count carries 10 years to life in prison, a stiffer punishment than attempted murder.