A Mexican citizen has pleaded guilty to shooting a Utah police officer less than an hour after he allegedly robbed a man at gunpoint.
In a deal with prosecutors, Cesar Martinez-Hernandez, 24, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of attempted murder in Third District Court in Salt Lake City. Four other charges – including aggravated robbery and drug possession – were dismissed, according to court documents.
Martinez-Hernandez had previously pleaded not guilty to all charges stemming from the April 29, 2011 shooting of West Valley City police officer Jeff McNees, as well as the armed robbery of Ruben Jeronimo-Garcia the same day.
Sentencing in the case has been set for April 13.
Authorities allege that Martinez-Hernandez put a gun to Jeronimo-Garcia’s head and demanded his wallet, according to a probable cause affidavit and other documents. A short time later, Officer McNees located Martinez-Hernandez sitting inside the suspect vehicle at a nearby apartment building. When McNees ordered Martinez-Hernandez to show his hands, the suspect produced a pistol and fired four shots at the officer.
McNees was struck in the leg, shattering his kneecap. McNees returned fire but did not hit Martinez-Hernandez, according to the documents.
Martinez-Hernandez then allegedly fled in his vehicle, first backing into McNees’ patrol car and later driving 90 miles per hour through a residential area. At one point Martinez-Hernandez lost control and struck a parked car, but he continued to flee police on foot. Officers quickly tackled him.
While being questioned by police, Martinez-Hernandez admitted to the robbery and shooting McNees, according to the affidavit. Police say Martinez-Hernandez had methamphetamine on his person at the time of his arrest.
Court documents indicate that Martinez-Hernandez was deported to Mexico in 2005 and returned to the U.S. in 2009. He remains in Salt Lake County Jail, according to jail records.
The attempted murder charge is punishable by five years to life in prison.
An investigation by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office found that McNees was legally justified in using deadly force to try to stop Martinez-Hernandez.