Abilene man sentenced to 25 years for shooting at police officers

Derek Casey

ABILENE, Texas - Family members of Derek Lee Casey, Jr. said he wasn't the same person Thursday, when he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting at two Abilene police officers last January, as he was when fueled by drugs on the night the crime occurred.

Casey received his sentence from Judge Thomas Wheeler -- 25 years for each count of aggravated assault against a public servant and three years for a motion to revoke probation, all to be served concurrently -- after a near two-hour hearing Thursday following his open guilty plea in March.

On Jan. 4, 2016, Abilene police received a call about an armed subject attempting to enter a house in the 1100 block of Burger Street and four officers arrived to the house. Two officers went to the front of the house while two others, Daniel Henning and Katie Snell, approached from the alley behind the house.

Henning and Snell both testified during Thursday's hearing and gave nearly identical accounts of the evening. They said they approached the back of the house slowly and only exposed themselves to the backyard in sections. When they saw Casey in a hoodie on the porch, Snell yelled for Casey to put his hands up and get on the ground.

But Casey pulled out a gun and fired at the two officers, according to their testimony. Henning said he could hear one of the bullets fly right above his head.

The officers returned fire and struck Casey twice. They testified seeing him buckle and fall to the ground on the porch. Snell told the court she initially thought, "holy cow I think we killed him," but said she breathed a sigh of relief when Casey yelled in pain. The two then proceeded to secure Casey and began providing medical care.

Investigators later determined that the two officers fired eight shots total. None of Casey's bullets were recovered, according to testimony.

Casey's defense attorney, John Young, asked Snell if the officers had verbally identified themselves as police when entering the backyard. Snell said they had not because there wasn't enough time to do so when they saw Casey. The point was made moot, however, when Casey later took the stand and told the court that he recognized them as approaching police officers.

The two officers were the only witnesses called by the state; Casey's defense called a forensic psychiatrist and several of his family members to attest to the role that drugs played in his life.

One after another, Casey's sister, niece, nephews, and estranged wife all testified that Casey was a productive man before he delved into methamphetamine use. But his sister and wife said his "macho personality" that he inherited from his father prevented him from seeking or accepting help.

Casey took the stand and read a letter he had written in which he expressed remorse for his actions and recognized what he did. He wrote that he fired at the police officers as an attempt at suicide due to mental anguish he was feeling at the time.

But Taylor County Assistant District Attorney Dan Joiner tore apart the idea that Casey's actions were part of an attempted suicide, saying that Casey had plans to go to a friend's house later on the night of the shooting. Joiner pointed to Casey's criminal history and probation. He said Casey was supposed to be sober as a condition of the probation but that he broke it by smoking methamphetamine.

During closing arguments, Young pleaded for the mercy of the court in sentencing Casey and said that he could become a productive member of society.

Joiner took the position that police officers take on the responsibility of protecting the public and watching our backs, and that sentencing Casey to prison was the only way to show police officers "we have your back."

Judge Wheeler took a few minutes to deliberate Casey's sentence before returning to the court with the decision. The two 25-year sentences for the assaults and the three-year sentence for breaking probation will be served at the same time.