DETROIT — A highly decorated police officer who was shot five times last year delivered a harsh message Tuesday to a Wayne Circuit judge who handed down what the officer called an "insulting" and "lenient" sentence to the convicted 25-year-old gunman.
Detroit Police Officer Arthur Matthews, 40, was shot the morning of May 6, 2011, while off-duty during a robbery attempt at a Marathon gas station on Michigan Avenue and 11th Street.
The shooter, Christopher Proctor, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, which each carry up to a life sentence. But Wayne Circuit Judge Ulysses Boykin on Tuesday sentenced Proctor to 14-25 years in prison.
Matthews, who still uses a cane as a result of his injuries from the shooting incident, stood up in the courtroom and called the judge's sentence "insulting." The patrolman, based in the department's northeastern district, was named last week by the Detroit Police Officers Association as one of several Officers of the Year.
"There's a sea of emotions I've had since this happened," said Matthews, who has been on disability since the shooting. "The (sentence) has been whittled down to 14 years. I find that very insulting. That's kid gloves, not attempted murder.
"This is the message you send to police officers when we try to do our jobs?" Matthews asked Boykin. "I don't expect any remorse from the defendant, but I did expect justice from this court."
As Matthews spoke, Proctor slumped in his chair, hand on his chin. Once, when he tried to interrupt Matthews, bailiffs told him to be quiet.
Boykin explained that he came to his sentencing decision after receiving "numerous letters from Mr. Proctor's family."
"While this is a heinous offense, and Officer Matthews has suffered an injury that will probably never heal ... we've got guidelines that are very lenient."
After the hearing, Matthews scoffed at Boykin's statement. "The guidelines aren't lenient," the officer said. "The judge was lenient."
Under Michigan law: "Any person who shall assault another with intent to commit the crime of murder, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life or any number of years."
After the hearing, Boykin declined to discuss his sentencing decision.
Curt Benson, a professor at Cooley School of Law in Grand Rapids, said the 14-to-25-year sentence seemed "a bit low," although he said he would have to see what presentencing recommendations were made by the Michigan Department of Corrections in order to make an informed assessment.
"Unfortunately, that's not a public document," Benson said. "So I'm not sure what the (sentencing) score was, but 14 years does seem on the low side."
Proctor's mother, Shannon Proctor, said her son is "a wonderful person, a hard worker and a great father."
"He's innocent, but he pleaded guilty because he knew nobody would take his word over a police officer," she said.
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Thomas Trzcinski said his office didn't cut a deal with Proctor, who also was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office because the .45 automatic handgun he used to shoot Matthews was defaced, which is a federal offense.
"There was no plea deal; (Proctor) just pleaded guilty to what we charged him with," Trzcinski said.
The shooting incident happened after Matthews' sister returned his car, which she had borrowed. The officer pulled into the gas station and was refueling his car when Proctor approached him and demanded, "Give me all your (expletive)," Matthews said.
"I see he's got a gun in his hand," said Matthews, recounting the shooting prior to the sentencing. "As he's walking toward me, he racks the gun. My first instinct was to shoot him, but he's got his gun out already and I can't.
"He puts his gun to my temple and tells me he wants my money. I'm thinking I'm going to try to throw the money between his legs and make him turn around; then I'll shoot him. But he gets nervous and says, 'Don't move. If you grab my gun I'll shoot you in the face.'"
Matthews said he identified himself as a police officer. "I said, 'What are you doing? I'm the police.' But he started shooting. I knew I was hit but I felt no pain. I heard God's voice tell me, 'You won't be hurt.'"
Although Matthews said Proctor had the gun aimed at his temple, he was able to wrest it lower, so when Proctor pulled the trigger, he shot the officer five times in the legs and side. His left femur was shattered. A sixth bullet struck Matthews' service pistol in its holster.
"I don't know if his gun jammed or if he ran out of bullets, but he stopped shooting. I told him 'You just shot the police.' Then I punched him in his face. He starts yelling, and trying to regain control of the gun. Then he tried to run away. I don't know if he was going to shoot me again, so I pulled out my gun and shot him three times."
While that gunfight raged, Matthews said he believes friends of Proctor opened fire on the officer. "I was hiding behind a street pole," Matthews said.
Matthews said he received death threats, and that police put a detail outside his east-side home for several weeks.
"I just can't figure how someone who tries to kill a police officer can be walking the streets in a few years," he said. "This is our criminal justice system."