COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A 47-year-old banking worker and military veteran with a spotless criminal record for more than 20 years was sentenced Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in prison for two ambushes on police officers in South Carolina that killed one deputy and wounded three others.
Records show Christian McCall was making nearly $100,000 a year at Wells Fargo with two kids and a wife in a Charlotte, North Carolina, suburb when his life started slowly unraveling.
McCall was drinking a gallon-and-a half (5.5 liters) of whisky a week, his marriage was falling apart and he was in a tenuous place with his job when he snapped Jan. 18, beat his wife, then went into military mode hiding out in the woods as police searched for him, authorities said.
McCall's military training kicked in "because of alcohol and fear," defense attorney Harry Dest said in a York County courtroom filled with uniformed police officers.
McCall pleaded guilty to murder and several other charges Tuesday, agreeing to never appeal in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty.
Solicitor Kevin Brackett started his presentation with a 911 call made by McCall's wife of about 20 years. She first calmly told the operator she needed an officer because her husband grabbed her arms and threw her around. She then began crying and screaming as McCall beat her again, then she said he was grabbing weapons and ammunition and heading for the woods behind their home in York County, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Charlotte, according to the 911 call.
McCall first hid behind trees and shot a York County Sheriff's deputy using a police dog to track him with a rifle and ammunition so powerful the bullet went through a 6-inch (15-centimeter) diameter tree, Brackett said.
A helicopter with a heat-sensing camera tracked McCall on the chilly night, but officers couldn't get to him before it had to refuel, the prosecutor said.
After the chopper got back in the air, officers spotted what looked like a person hiding under a boat. But instead, McCall was under a deck and ambushed York County detective Mike Doty, who was killed, and two other officers as they walked toward the boat, Brackett said.
The wounded officers fired back and took McCall into custody. He had a pistol and a rifle, a knife, a hatchet and six 30-round magazines of ammunition, Brackett said.
McCall was pushed into the courtroom Tuesday in a wheelchair, still suffering from injuries from the shooting. He did stand to apologize to the family and friends of Doty and the wounded officers.
"I would like to reiterate my deep remorse for the unimaginable pain and suffering I have caused the family and friends of officer Doty and everyone affected by my actions," McCall said. "I hope to devote the rest of my life to doing the most good and helping as many people as my circumstances will allow."
McCall was a military veteran, honorably discharged from the Army in 1999 with the rank of specialist, according to Army records. Records obtained by The Associated Press show McCall was making nearly $86,000 a year as a technical team leader at Wells Fargo, according to a 2014 bankruptcy filing. The only criminal blemish on his record was a 1994 arrest for shoving a police officer in a fight.
Dest read a letter where McCall said while in jail he thought a lot about a son he and his wife lost during childbirth 18 years ago.
"The pain we experienced from our loss is indescribable," McCall wrote. "Knowing I have caused similar suffering to others is massively horrifying."
Doty's father said his family has forgiven McCall because that is what their son would want.
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