NEWS HEADLINES

Armstrong sentenced to 50 years; Jury delivers guilty verdict on evading arrest charge

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, June 9, 2018
Tags: ,

Share this page...

A Bridgeport man involved in a high-speed chase through Decatur, which resulted in a wreck that seriously injured two officers, was sentenced to 50 years in prison Wednesday in 271st District Court.

David Armstrong

A Wise County jury found David Armstrong, 32, of Bridgeport, guilty of evading arrest or detention with a vehicle. District Judge Brock Smith then heard evidence in the punishment phase of the trial before sentencing Armstrong to 50 years in prison Wednesday afternoon.

Due to prior felony convictions, Armstrong faced a punishment range of 25 years to life in prison.

Armstrong led officers in the chase on U.S. 81/287 and into a residential Decatur neighborhood Dec. 8, 2016. Two Wise County Sheriff’s Office investigators, Mike Neagle and James Mayo, were seriously injured in a crash during the pursuit.

Both gave emotional testimony about the crash during the punishment phase of the trial.

Mayo testified that he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Neagle as they followed the pursuit, which started just north of Decatur. He said officers had received a tip that Armstrong would be transporting drugs through the area and were attempting to stop him when Armstrong sped off at speeds of more than 100 mph, at times passing vehicles on the left and right shoulders.

The investigator said they believed Armstrong might be armed, so his job was to make sure the officer ahead of them in the pursuit, Cavin Riggs, was safe.

As the pursuit neared the Texas DPS office, troopers attempted to disable the tires on Armstrong’s vehicle with a spike strip, but he drove the vehicle into the median and then into oncoming traffic in the northbound lanes of U.S. 81/287.

Neagle drove his vehicle into the median, and it was struck by a vehicle driven by a DPS officer who was also trying to stop Armstrong’s vehicle.

Two videos were played for the judge, one from another officer’s vehicle and one from the dash camera inside Neagle’s pickup. It shows the vehicle rolling numerous times before stopping on its passenger side.

Mayo described how he held out his left arm to try to brace himself when the truck began to roll and Neagle falling on top of him.

When asked what he was most concerned about at that moment, Mayo paused to collect himself before saying, “I knew I was hurt, but due to what Neagle was saying, I knew he was hurt more than I was.”

Neagle testified that he was in great pain, particularly from his left arm up to his shoulder. Emergency responders had to cut out the front window of the truck to free the officer.

Both were taken to Wise Health System. Tests showed Neagle had fractured vertebrae in his neck, and he was flown to the trauma unit at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth where he had surgery and was released the following week.

“Every doctor and nurse I talked to said it’s a miracle I’m still walking,” Neagle said.

Mayo and Neagle both testified about the recovery process and the pain they both still feel a year-and-a-half later. They also said they are limited in their duties due to their injuries from the accident.

During the first phase of the trial, the jury watched video of the entire pursuit from a camera in Riggs’ vehicle. Armstrong could be seen driving a green Kia Soul south on U.S. 81/287, through Decatur, into oncoming traffic and then exiting at Farm Road 730 where he continued up College Street into a residential area in town.

Riggs testified that Armstrong was driving 70 to 75 mph in a residential area where the speed limit is 30, running two stop signs at busy intersections. From College Street, Armstrong turned right onto Collins Street where he drove about two blocks and, instead of taking the 90-degree turn, drove off into a field where he was pursued by Riggs and DPS Cpl. Lantz Elliott.

Armstrong’s vehicle got stuck at a drainage ditch near Business U.S. 81/287, and he fled across the road on foot. Riggs also ran after him on foot after his car became stuck in the mud. Elliott testified that he continued pursuing Armstrong in his vehicle and never lost sight of the suspect as he ran behind a metal building. After exiting his car and ordering Armstrong to the ground, Elliott and Riggs arrested Armstrong.

Officers found 18 grams of methamphetamine in the vehicle.

The jury also heard a couple of recorded calls from the jail between Armstrong and family members where he could be heard bragging about how fast he was going in his vehicle.

“I go by James Wood about 120. I hit the median and didn’t hit the brakes at all,” he said in one recording.

On a couple of other calls, he tells family members “I’m guilty.”

During her closing argument to the jury, Assistant District Attorney Lindy Borchardt described how Armstrong’s actions showed no concern for the safety of the public or law enforcement.

“The evidence has proven this defendant has no respect for our laws…This defendant has no respect for our law enforcement officers here,” she said, pointing to a row of officers in attendance.

Defense attorney Paul Belew asked the jury to consider if the state had proven all of the elements of the case.

“Sometimes it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but maybe it’s only a relative of a duck,” he said.

The jury apparently was convinced it was a “duck,” however, and needed only about five minutes to return a guilty verdict Wednesday morning.

Armstrong elected to have Smith determine his punishment, and testimony in that phase of the trial began later that morning.

District Attorney Greg Lowery and Borchardt introduced evidence of Armstrong’s numerous prior convictions, including eight felony convictions, all in Wise County.

Armstrong testified in the second phase of the trial and said all of his criminal offenses are due to his drug addiction. He said he was high on drugs when he decided to run from officers trying to stop him.

“I hit the blinker and thought, ‘It’s fight or flight.’ I don’t like confrontations. I was high. I wanted to get away,” he said.

Later, he apologized to the officers for starting the pursuit that caused their wreck.

“I’m sorry to Mayo and Neagle. I didn’t mean for y’all to get hurt,” he said, looking over at the two officers. “I really do mean it.”

Armstrong’s mother and sister also testified, telling the judge Armstrong is a different person when he’s not on drugs.

Prosecutors asked the judge to deliver the maximum life sentence while Belew asked the judge for a prison sentence on the lower end of the scale.

After about 10 minutes of reviewing the evidence, Smith delivered the 50-year sentence.

The judge did find that the vehicle Armstrong was driving during the offense was used as a deadly weapon, meaning he must serve at least half of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.

Leave a Reply. Note: As of March 24, 2011, all posted comments will include the users full name.

WCMessenger.com News and Blog Comment Guidelines

You must be logged in to post a comment.