Sacramento police officers filled two rows of the courtroom Wednesday to watch a jury return an attempted murder conviction on a woman whose boyfriend last year shot and seriously wounded a K-9 before firing on the dog’s human partner.
Lucus Jerome Webb missed in the shot he took at Bodie’s handler, Randy Van Dusen, but the officer’s return fire proved fatal to the man who reputedly bragged about once shooting a cop and boasting that he’d do it again.
Authorities said Webb’s girlfriend, Leslie Marie McCulley, was equally responsible for her boyfriend’s actions on May 18, 2012, day the two Butte County residents showed up in Sacramento in a stolen car looking to buy drugs. They took off on a high-speed chase when an officer ran their plates and tried to pull them over.
It took a Superior Court jury less than a day of deliberations to agree. Judge Greta Curtis Fall scheduled sentencing on McCulley, 30, for Oct. 11.
With added convictions for reckless evasion, being a felon in possession of a firearm and being in possession of a stolen automobile, McCulley, who has criminal record that includes possession of methamphetamine, second-degree burglary and accessory to an assault on a peace officer, is looking at a sentence of somewhere in the mid-20 years to life in prison, Deputy District Attorney Tate Davis said after the verdict.
Davis said the wounding of the police dog and the attempted killing of the officer would not have happened had it not been for McCulley prodding the 33-year-old Webb, during the chase that took them through Hollywood Park and Land Park, to make good on his threat to shoot a cop.
“The defense attorney (Rachel Engle) used an analogy (in her closing argument) that Lucus Webb was like a freight train,” Davis said outside court. “If that’s true, then she was at the switching track and she was directing that freight train.
“She and Webb were a team,” Davis said. “They were equals. The way she described herself in her calls to friends and family as Bonnie and Clyde was actually pretty accurate.”
McCulley sniffled briefly and silently when the verdict was read. Engle, her attorney, declined to comment afterward.
Dressed in his uniform Wednesday, Van Dusen said he was “kind of overwhelmed with emotion” when the verdict was read, “that justice was served.”
“When you hear a guilty verdict like that, it’s kind of a relief,” Van Dusen said in an interview outside Fall’s courtroom. “It’s a relief for the family. The department is extended family. I know it’s a relief for them that we have a jury that’s willing to do that service and hold somebody accountable for their actions.”
With Webb at the wheel, the two hit speeds of up to 80 mph, running stop signs and flying over speed bumps, in their attempt to escape from the police. At one point, they drove through a playground filled with scores of kids at St. Robert School in Hollywood Park. They abandoned the car in Land Park before McCulley was subdued near Riverside Boulevard and Swanson Drive. Webb then ran around the corner and into a backyard in the 1100 block of Robertson Way where Bodie cornered him with Van Dusen close behind.
Van Dusen credited his police training for helping him avoid injury. Muscle memory had him moving to his right while Webb fired a shot from a .357 revolver that left a quarter-size hole in a garage behind where the officer stood.
“Getting out of the way, that just goes back to the hours upon hours of training we do in our department,” he said. “We were very well trained to handle that situation, and there’s always a bit of luck. The higher power was looking out for me that day, and also for Bodie.”
Van Dusen, who is back at work, described the aftermath of the fatal shootings as traumatic.
“We always want to deliver a suspect to justice, so they can go through the judicial process and be found guilty,” he said. “We’re officers on the street, but we’re also people. They affect us. They’re hard on our families and friends. But with faith in everybody, the right outcome will come, and we feel good about that.”
Bodie, who is 5, has since been taken off the street. The German shepherd is now the Van Dusen family dog. He’s down to three toes on his right paw and he has a metal plate in his jaw, but he gets around pretty well and has no trouble chewing toys or food, Van Dusen said.
“He gets to stay home with my wife and just kind of run around,” the officer said. “He looks forward to when I come home with Bosco, the replacement K-9. Those two run around and play and he’s slowly adjusting to his retired life.”
Bodie, Van Dusen said, “is not cut out for the rigors of police work anymore, but he definitely will live a long life as a family dog.”
Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo