Judge: Convicted cop killer will spend less than five years behind bars


Justice is dead.


It has been over a year since a retired police officer from St. Louis, Missouri was needlessly gunned down in an attempted robbery committed by two juveniles. New developments regarding the fate of one of the two accused of murdering the man has struck a chord with officers who fondly remember the police veteran, but not in a good way.

A recent plea bargain that was accepted by one of the juveniles may have him out in less than 5 years’ time for his role in the death of former police Sergeant Ralph Harper.

Judge: Convicted cop killer will spend less than five years behind bars
Retired Sgt. Ralph Harper was killed in 2018. And in a few years, a man partially responsible for his death will be free.


This past Thursday, Circuit Judge Michael Noble ordered 20-year-old Justin Mathews to enter a juvenile detention program in connection with the shooting death of retired St. Louis police Sergeant Ralph Harper.

Harper, who had been on the force for 33 years before retiring, was killed in October 2018 during a carjacking attempt.

Jalynn Garner, who was the shooter in the case, had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Mathews had admitted to providing Garner with the gun and waiting in an SUV as Garner tried to rob Harper. Both of the teens were certified as adults to stand trial, yet somehow one of them is able to engage in a program referred to those tried as juveniles.

Mathews, who was 15 at the time of the crime, conspired with Jalynn Garner, then 16, to steal Harper’s vehicle as he was parking his car at roughly 7:30 a.m. on October 29, 2018. Apparently, the retired police sergeant was going to go babysit his great niece and nephew.

Mathews had procured the gun used during the attempted robbery, and sat in the SUV while his accomplice approached Harper’s car and shot him. Harper was able to return fire, striking Garner in the arm. In his dying breaths, Harper managed to call 911 to give a description of the shooter.

While potential scenarios and fates were discussed between prosecutors and attorneys, Mathews had eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed criminal action, tampering with evidence, and resisting arrest. The program that Mathews will be entering, which could have him out in less than 5 years, is hardly a doling of justice.

According to the program that was offered to Mathews by the judge, he could be released on probation at age 21. The syllabus consists of counseling and vocational training, which if Mathews successfully completes the program, he’ll be able to dodge a 20-year prison sentence that has been suspended.

While a judge will determine whether or not Mathews had completed the program to the tune defined by the plea, short of refusing to participate and egregious behavior while in the program, he’ll likely succeed.

Keep in mind that the rate in which juveniles are likely to reoffend after being released is actually higher than that of adults sentenced to prison who get released.

According to the Pew Research Center, a collective 43 percent of adults released from prison will reoffend, which is extremely high. Juveniles, on the other hand, have a recidivism rate of 84 percent. Statistically, bad kids become bad adults.

Mathews’ attorney, Eric Selig, claimed that he was a prime candidate for this type of program because he had an evaluation, and also no prior record. Selig went on to say:

“He was caught up in this one thing. He feels terrible. This is a horrible tragedy.”

Despite the bleeding hearts that pour out over the concept of a young child making a mistake, there has to be some level of justice executed when dealing with the murder of a former police sergeant.

The Ethical Society of Police, which actually advocates for fair sentencing and policing of minorities, wasn’t pleased at all with the results handed down by the judge.

The organization recently released a statement on their thoughts of the sentence:

“Murder is the ultimate violent act. The decision of Circuit Judge Michael Noble to sentence Justin Mathews to roughly five years, with a possible release at age twenty-one, is unacceptable for an armed carjacking and subsequent murder. We don’t condone light sentences for murder for anyone under these circumstances.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened recently.

In 2018, Diego Moreno was inadvertently struck and killed by a fellow officer during a vehicle pursuit. The fleeing suspect, then a 16-year old was charged in his death. If he had been tried as an adult, he would have faced a sentence of 10 to 18 years.

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Judge: Convicted cop killer will spend less than five years behind bars


Instead, the now 17-year old accepted a deal. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder. His sentence: he will be incarcerated in juvenile detention until he turns 21.

If you were expecting to now read that he would then be reprimanded to prison to serve the rest of his sentence, you will not find those words. The Judge, Sean O’Donnell sentenced the teen to a less than 4-year sentence.

“You have a remarkable opportunity to turn a page,” O’Donnell said. “I hope you take advantage of that.”

Yep. That is it. While he will have a murder conviction, he will back out on the street in 2023. It is unclear whether Washington state law allows for the record to be sealed since he was tried and convicted as a minor.

According to King5 News, the prosecution reminded the packed courtroom that the officers were responding to a ‘shots fired’ call in a crowded parking lot in July of last year. The youth led police on a chase that reached speeds of 95 miles per hour. 

Moreno had just put down spike strips when he was struck by a police vehicle and died as a result of those injuries.

Prior to the sentencing from O’Donnell, members of both families took turns at the courtroom microphone.

“My life shattered. I lost my best friend. l lost my big brother, and I lost my soulmate. My mom lost her only son and his kids lost their amazing father,” said Alejandra Moreno. “Now almost 16 months after his death, the silence of his absence is heartbreakingly deafening.”

Then she did something unexpected.

“Your Honor, I have a gift,” said Lizzie Lee, Officer Moreno’s mother.

Lee gave the teen a challenge coin that symbolized Officer Moreno’s sacrifice and heroism. It is a gift she has given to Officer Moreno’s closest friends. She wanted to give a coin to the 17-year-old so he would not forget who the world lost.

“I cannot imagine how much you must be hurting and the anger you must feel, but please know that my family and I would do anything to change what happened,” said Brianna Garcia, the teenager’s sister.

The teen’s sister apologized.

“I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I am truly sorry,” the convicted teen said.

We brought you the story of the fallen officer the day of his death, July 23, 2018.

Chief Rafael Padilla of the Kent Police Department in the state of Washington sadly reports the death of Officer Diego Moreno.

“The officer is an eight-year veteran with Kent Police; his contributions to our department, and positive impact on his co-workers and the community, have been significant,” Kent Police posted on Facebook.

Officer Moreno was assisting in a pursuit where a vehicle was fleeing from the scene of a shots fired call. As a result of the pursuit, Moreno was laying down stop sticks in an attempt to deflate the tires of the suspect vehicle and bring the pursuit to an end.

While Moreno was positioning the stop sticks, he was struck by a Kent Police patrol vehicle that was pursuing the suspect vehicle. The Kent patrol unit then struck three other vehicles injuring the officer driving it. Sadly, Moreno died at the scene of the crash.

The vehicle being pursued struck the stop sticks and crashed. The suspect driver has been taken into custody.

“Make no question about this, were it not for the actions of this suspect or suspects, this officer would be alive today. It’s directly because of the suspect or suspects’ actions that led to the officer’s death,” WSP Captain Ron Mead said at a news conference at Kent City Hall.

The Washington State Patrol is investigating the vehicle crash and the Valley Investigation Team is conducting the criminal investigation.

The officer driving the patrol vehicle striking Moreno and subsequently striking other vehicles was transported to the Harborview Medical Center for treatment. He is listed in critical but stable condition.

Diego Moreno served the Kent Police Department for eight years. Moreover, he was a hostage negotiator and a defensive tactics instructor. He had received numerous commendations and awards for excellence in his service to the community during his career. He is survived by his wife and two young children.

“He was the full package,” said Des Moines Police Chief Ken Thomas, who previously headed up the Kent department. “An absolutely top-notch police officer, who would not only work to go out and arrest suspects but work with the community as well.”

Officer Diego Moreno is gone but will never be forgotten.

EOW: Sunday, July 22, 2018.

Tell us your thoughts. Was the judge too lenient in the sentencing? Was it a fair sentence seeing that the teen did not strike the officer himself? Should he be headed to prison once he completes his time in juvenile detention.


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