St. Louis — A 23-year-old St. Louis man has been sentenced to life in prison for shooting and severely injuring a firefighter during a home invasion.
Circuit Judge David Mason called it the “crime that everyone fears the most” before sentencing Terrence Hendricks on Friday to life plus an additional 31 years.
A St. Louis jury convicted Hendricks in April of burglary, robbery and assault in a February 2009 home invasion and shooting that left Ernest Strong permanently disabled.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Strong, 55, a firefighter and Gulf War veteran, said Friday that he struggles to make it through each day.
“This young man has completely turned my life upside down,” Strong told the judge before the sentencing. “I ask that you give him as much punishment as possible.”
Hendricks apologized to Strong after he was sentenced.
“I’m just sorry for what happened to you and your family, Mr. Strong,” he said. “I apologize for putting you through this.”
Strong testified earlier that he had returned to his house to find a car he didn’t recognize in the driveway. He called police assuming car thieves had left it there.
Three armed burglars were ransacking the house and escaped when they saw Strong arrive.
Hendricks confronted Strong in the driveway. Hendricks fired eight shots and fled. Police found him hiding nearby about an hour later.
Demar Cotton, 20, pleaded guilty in April of robbery, burglary and armed criminal action in the incident. He is scheduled for sentencing June 25. The third person was not charged.
Strong spent about a month in the hospital and faces several more weeks in a rehabilitation center.
He has undergone several surgeries and has two metal rods in his neck to hold up his head. His windpipe, esophagus and liver were damaged, too. He also has nerve damage.
Officials and colleagues at the St. Louis Fire Department have donated sick time and raised money for Strong’s care. He has returned to work in an administrative role.