Deputy speaks at sentencing of man who pulled gun on him, describes life-or-death moment

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.

As he pointed a pistol at a deputy’s chest just a few feet away, John B. Crawford came close to being killed himself, that deputy said.

Crawford, 52, of Lawrence, was sentenced Friday in Douglas County District Court to prison for the 2015 altercation. In an emotional victim impact statement, the deputy described the lasting psychological effects from a moment that law enforcement officers fear.

“I felt like I was going to die. I felt like my wife and my children were never going to see their husband or father again,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Clover said.

“Mr. Crawford made me make the decision on whether or not I was going to take someone’s life.”

Clover said he was a fraction of a second from doing that.

John B. Crawford

He said he pulled his gun, pointed it at Crawford and began to pull the trigger when he spotted Crawford’s girlfriend coming in between the two men, and stopped.

After lowering his gun Crawford tried to run, then physically fought Clover and another deputy before being taken into custody. Clover also sustained an injury to his elbow during the altercation.

Clover said the incident began as a routine civil standby, then escalated.

“Every day, I think of the situation,” Clover said. “Taking the most innocent call and thinking how it could instantly go wrong.”

The incident happened Aug. 2, 2015, at Crawford’s home in the 600 block of East 715 Road.

After finding a partially clothed woman walking near Lone Star Lake after a dispute with her boyfriend, the deputies accompanied her to Crawford’s home to retrieve her cellphone and a few belongings, according to a news release from the district attorney’s office. Crawford allowed the woman in, but became agitated as she looked for her phone and tried to slam the door on deputies. When Clover blocked the door from shutting, Crawford pulled the handgun from behind his back and pointed it at Clover.

In July, a jury convicted Crawford of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer and interference with law enforcement.

Judge Paula Martin sentenced Crawford to 20 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. He must register as a violent offender for 15 years.

Crawford, maintaining that he did not point the gun at the deputy, asked for a nonprison sentence.

“I’m very sorry for this entire situation,” Crawford said during the hearing. “I think myself and officers saw it differently, obviously. I’m very sorry this happened.”

Crawford’s attorney, Branden Smith, said Crawford has his own construction business, which he built “from the ground up,” and a wife and two girls. He said Crawford is not a danger to the public and was willing to complete any anger management or substance abuse programs the court asked him to.

“This person’s reliable, this person’s honest,” Smith said. “Prisons are reserved for the most violent criminals, and Mr. Crawford is not that person.”

Prosecutor Andrew Bauch, however, said Crawford had three past convictions for assault and battery, including two road rage incidents. Bauch said anger management hadn’t worked and that Crawford not taking responsibility for his actions was problematic.

“He has anger issues, and he acts out on them on members of the community,” Bauch said.

In explaining her sentencing decision, the judge said counseling programs aren’t effective for people who deny they have a problem.

She said Crawford put the deputy in a position where he had to choose whether he was going to die or someone else was going to die, though fortunately no one did.

“He made a decision, with no possible excuses, to point a gun at a law enforcement officer’s chest,” Martin said. “No one should ever be put in that situation.”