ROCKWALL, Texas—A jury Monday found Justin Miles Sanders guilty of murder in the hit-and-run death of Texarkana, Texas, police officer Jason Sprague after a little more than four hours of deliberation.
The jury is expected to return this morning to hear arguments and additional witness testimony concerning the punishment the 22-year-old should receive. Sanders faces five to 99 years or life in a Texas prison.
Prosecutors argued Sprague was holding a lighted flashlight in a well-lit parking lot and waving his arms when Sanders jumped a curb and ran over Sprague. Sprague, 30, suffered catastrophic injury to his brain, multiple fractured ribs, a broken leg, a torn heel and various abrasions.
“If you’re trying to flee and a police officer is trying to stop you, then you’ve committed evading arrest. And if you kill an officer while evading arrest then you’re guilty of murder,” said Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp in closing remarks shortly before noon.
Sprague was the first officer sent to Grady T. Wallace park in the early hours of June 14 in response to a disturbance call reporting fighting and drug use. A crowd of about 100 began quickly leaving the closed park when Sprague pulled up in his cruiser, lights flashing.
Witnesses testified Sanders drove erratically and at a high rate of speed as he fled.
Prosecutors argued Sprague died because Sanders did not want to get a ticket for violating a city ordinance that closes city parks from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. or risk getting arrested for possession of marijuana.
Read tomorrow’s Texarkana Gazette for full coverage of the Sanders verdict. Check the Gazette’s Website or Facebook for a midday update on the sentencing phase of Sanders’ case Tuesday.
llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

Published: 03/31/2014