By Jim Schoettler
The Florida Times-Union
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A career criminal with a history of selling drugs, beating women and resisting police was ordered held without bail Thursday on charges of shooting a Jacksonville police officer in a gun battle that started during a traffic stop Wednesday night.
Circuit Judge James Ruth spent about 10 minutes Thursday afternoon asking a prosecutor to outline the accusations against Donald Lee Goins, 33, who is accused of shooting Officer J. Andrew Benson in the upper right arm. The five-year police veteran and father of two young children, was recovering at home Thursday.
Ruth also asked Goins about his finances and family. Ruth appointed the unemployed man a public defender after he said he had no money.
Police and court records show Goins has been arrested at least 40 times since 1995 on a slew of charges including multiple cases of possessing and selling crack cocaine, domestic violence and resisting arrest without violence. His longest sentence was 18 months in prison in 2007 for selling cocaine.
Many of the cases against Goins were dropped, including a 2012 charge of possession of a firearm by a felon, which carries a minimum mandatory three years in prison upon conviction. The State Attorney's Office said the 2012 case was dismissed after two people changed their testimonies and said they identified the wrong person.
"Given the lack of evidence and the concern over mistaken identity, the charges were dropped," said an e-mail from Jackelyn Barnard, director of communications for State Attorney Angela Corey.
Wednesday's attack also led police to charge Goins with possession of a firearm by a felon, which drew bail of $250,000.
Police still are searching for the gun. Bail of $50,000 was set for a domestic-violence warrant previously issued for Goins in an attack on his girlfriend.
Ruth asked Goins if he had any family in the courtroom and he pointed out a weeping sister and other relatives. Several people in that group got angry when photographers turned their cameras on them and a bailiff ordered one unruly group member out. That unidentified person shoved into a television reporter as he left the courtroom but was not arrested.
Goins will return to court May 6 in the domestic-violence case and May 15 on the other charges.
No one answered the door Thursday at the last known address police gave for Goins off West 43rd Street in Northwest Jacksonville. A neighbor said Goins lived in the home with the mother of two of his children but had left about two months ago after a domestic argument.
The neighbor, who wouldn't identify himself, said Goins was a friendly man and didn't cause trouble in the neighborhood.
The traffic stop Wednesday occurred about 5:30 p.m. on Edison Avenue, off McDuff Avenue just north of Interstate 10, after Benson noticed a motorist driving without his seat belt. The vehicle continued a few blocks and turned onto Cherokee Street before stopping, Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt said.
As Benson was getting out of his patrol car, he noticed the driver fidgeting inside his vehicle. The driver suddenly began firing from his window, hitting Benson in the arm as he returned fire while taking cover in his patrol car. The suspect drove off as Benson got back out of his car and fired another volley.
Benson stayed at the scene until help arrived and he identified Goins as his attacker. Officers arrested Goins in the 3300 block of North Laura Street, but Senterfitt would not say how police tracked him.
Senterfitt said Goins, who was not injured, had been driven to the area by an unknown motorist. Police are still looking for the motorist and are trying to determine if the driver knew Goins was a suspect in a police shooting.
Senterfitt said Benson was lucky to have not been more seriously wounded. The father of a 3-month-old and 2-year-old celebrated his five-year anniversary with the Sheriff's Office this month. He had never been involved in a shooting.
"A few inches the other way and this scenario is completely different," Senterfitt said. "Instead of in the upper arm, it could have been in his head by just six or eight inches."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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