It was hard enough watching his dog get shot in the face. If Randy Van Dusen hadn’t made a quick move to his right that day in May 2012, he’d probably be dead. He had to return fire at the guy who was shooting at him, but he wasn’t excited about having to kill him.
Still, the hardest part was going home and tucking his little girl into bed that night, answering questions about the day that a couple from Chico rode into Sacramento in a stolen Toyota.
Leslie Marie McCulley, 30, a crank-snorting thief with a penchant for outlaw boyfriends, was sentenced Friday to 31 years to life in prison for her role in the attempted murder of Van Dusen. The assault was carried out by her slain boyfriend, Lucas Jerome Webb, 33, who wound up dead after an exchange of gunfire with the officer.
Van Dusen said the shooting severely affected his family, friends and co-workers. In court, he recounted the moment at his daughter’s bedside when the little girl, then 7, asked about his police dog, Bodie. The dog suffered gunshot wounds to his jaw and right front paw, just before Webb turned and fired a .357 slug right where Van Dusen had been standing a split second before the officer jumped out of the way.
“When I got home, I showered and washed Bodie’s blood from my body so my daughter would not see, and I then had to explain to her that Bodie had been shot by a bad guy that was trying to kill Daddy,” Van Dusen said. “My daughter then asked me what happened to the bad guy, and I told her that Daddy had to shoot him and he did die.
“No parent should ever have to explain to their child that someone tried to kill them at work today,” he said.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall, after commending Van Dusen, sentenced McCulley for the attempted murder conviction and added counts of felony evasion, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and receiving stolen property.
Fall described McCulley as “a wannabe cop killer.”
“On the day of this incident, she was all in,” the judge said.
Police said McCulley, just one day out of jail on a methamphetamine-possession case, and Webb drove down from Chico to make a drug deal. Sacramento police ran their license plate and tried to stop them near Sacramento City College when the car came back stolen. Then Webb punched it over the sidewalks and green lawns of the campus, bounced the car over a curb onto Freeport Boulevard and cranked it up through residential neighborhoods at speeds of up to 80 mph.
At one point, the couple crashed through a chain-link fence at St. Robert School in Hollywood Park and tore through the playground with hundreds of children at recess. Then they sped across Freeport Boulevard into Land Park, where they abandoned the car.
Police got onto them quickly. They arrested McCulley and chased Webb into the backyard of a house on Robertson Way. Bodie, with Van Dusen close behind, cornered Webb there before the shooting started.
Bodie has since recovered from his wounds, but he was retired from police work and now represents the Police Department at community events.
McCulley made no statement at the sentencing hearing. Her probation report said she was “sorry about what happened. She said she did not want it to happen and she wishes she never got out of the car. She thought she could de-escalate the situation.”
In his closing argument at trial, Deputy District Attorney Tate Davis said McCulley shared Webb’s intent to shoot Van Dusen.
Davis said McCulley referred to herself and Webb as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, the infamous Depression-era bank robbers of the Dust Bowl. In recorded statements to friends and family while she was in jail, according to Davis, McCulley said she told Webb if he wasn’t going to shoot the police to give her the gun because she would.
Her father, Bob McCulley, called Friday’s sentencing “a circus.”
“She’s not a good girl, but she’s not an attempted killer of a police officer,” McCulley said. “That’s my deal. They don’t have to send her to prison for life for something she didn’t do. I understand a dog was shot, but dogs get run over and shot every frickin’ day. And a cop, if he gets shot at, that’s part of his job. I’m not saying it’s good, but that’s what he’s paid for. So I don’t want to hear any sob story in the frickin’ courtroom about how she should go to jail for something I don’t think she did.”
According to Butte County court records, McCulley was convicted in 2010 for being an accessory to an assault on a peace officer. In that case, a previous boyfriend had crashed a car near where she lived and then ran into her place with the police on his tail. She took his .44 handgun from him and hid in a closet. When the police found her, she jumped into a “ready fire position,” according to Davis, the prosecutor.
Davis characterized McCulley’s life sentence as “the right result” for her.
Van Dusen agreed. “Leslie and Lucas and I had never met before that day,” the officer told the court. “In their eyes, they’re not trying to kill Randy Van Dusen, the husband, father or friend. They’re trying to kill a police officer, and it just happened to be me. A police officer is everything Webb and McCulley despise, living their lives of continued crimes and numerous failed attempts to peacefully exist in a lawful society.
“The only place that Leslie McCulley belongs in is the custody of a prison,” Van Dusen said.
Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.