A Bowling Green man who was shot by a police officer responding to a domestic disturbance pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges arising from the incident.
Elmo Demetrius Stewart, 44, pleaded guilty in Warren Circuit Court to first-degree wanton endangerment, convicted felon in possession of a firearm and first-degree persistent felony offender.
Stewart entered an Alford plea to the wanton endangerment charge, which had been amended down from an initial charge of attempted murder. In an Alford plea, a defendant denies wrongdoing while acknowledging that enough evidence exists for a jury to return a guilty verdict.
Stewart’s case had been set for trial Thursday.
The charges stemmed from a Feb. 9, 2018, incident at Renaissance Village apartments on East Third Avenue.
Dispatch received a 911 call from the apartment complex in which the caller hung up the phone, an arrest warrant said.
Bowling Green Police Department Officers John Deeb and Larry Zuniga then learned a disturbance between family members led to the 911 call.
Zuniga and Stewart became involved in a physical confrontation shortly after Zuniga arrived at the apartment and made contact with Stewart, according to Kentucky State Police.
Deeb arrived soon after Zuniga and deployed a stun gun in an attempt to get Stewart to comply with commands, KSP said.
Zuniga fired his service weapon during the confrontation, striking Stewart.
“Officer Zuniga encountered Elmo Stewart, who brandished a loaded .45 caliber handgun,” KSP Detective Chad Winn said in an arrest warrant.
Stewart was wounded in the thigh and the back, with a bullet striking his liver, his attorney Alyson McDavitt said during a hearing Wednesday. Stewart was using a walker in video footage of his court appearance.
Had the case gone to trial, McDavitt said Stewart would have likely testified that he had wrested the gun from his nephew during the disturbance.
Police body camera footage from the incident shows a wounded Stewart maintaining that the gun did not belong to him and he had taken it from his nephew, McDavitt said in court.
Another portion of body camera footage appears to show Stewart holding the gun as police confronted him, McDavitt said.
A Warren County grand jury indicted Stewart on charges of attempted murder, first-degree wanton endangerment (police officer), second-degree assault, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and first-degree persistent felony offender.
Had the case gone to trial, Stewart faced a possible life sentence if convicted as charged, which he said figured into his decision to plead guilty.
“It’s a scary situation, it could go any way,” Stewart said in courtroom video footage when questioned by Warren Circuit Judge John Grise about changing his plea. “I’ve been scared since day one.”
Stewart’s plea agreement recommends a 10-year sentence in which he would be ineligible for parole.
Grise set final sentencing for June 25.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.