Louisiana fugitive who exchanged gunfire with Central Texas deputies pleads guilty to reduced charges
Man previously facing life in prison on initial aggravated assault against a peace officer charge
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A fugitive from Louisiana wounded in December 2019 after he exchanged gunfire with McLennan County sheriff’s deputies is on his way to prison.
Douglas Eric Hill, 31, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a reduced charge of aggravated assault and to possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver in a plea agreement with prosecutors that called for him to be sentenced to concurrent 20-year and 25-year prison terms, respectively.
Hill had been charged with aggravated assault against a peace officer, a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. However, prosecutors dropped the peace officer allegation, reducing the charge to a second-degree felony.
Judge Thomas West of Waco’s 19th State District Court accepted the plea agreement and ruled that Hill used a deadly weapon in the shootout with the deputies, which means he must be given credit for serving at least half of his prison term – or 10 years - before he can seek parole.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, a vocal critic of District Attorney Barry Johnson, was angered by the plea agreement. McNamara said Hill knew he was shooting at deputies and should have been charged accordingly and held fully accountable for his actions.
“He tried to kill police officers and he should have been convicted of it, plain and simple,” McNamara said.
When asked what message it sends for the plea agreement to treat the drug charge more severely than assaults on officers, McNamara said, “That tells you something right there. That is all I will say.”
Hill’s attorney, Jessi Freud and Alan Bennett, declined comment on the plea agreement Wednesday.
Hill filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against sheriff’s deputies Cody Blossman, Chris Evans and Jason Sandell in May, alleging the officers failed to properly identify themselves and used excessive force while taking him into custody.
U.S. District Judge Alan Albright, of Waco, ordered all matters stayed in the civil case until Hill’s state criminal cases are resolved.
The deputies, members of the Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team, were acting on a tip that Hill, who was shot four times in the incident, was seen near an apartment complex on Lake Air Drive. Hill was wanted on multiple warrants by the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office in Shreveport, Louisiana, officials said.
Hill alleges in his lawsuit that he “acquired a few enemies” during his short time in Waco and he thought the deputies, who approached in an unmarked, undercover van equipped with flashing lights, was someone who wanted to rob or kill him.
“When the vehicle veered across the street as if it was going to run me over, I turned to my left and started running back across Lake Air Dr. from where I came,” Hill alleges in the lawsuit. “I started hearing gunfire and then there was darkness.”
A McLennan County grand jury reviewing the shooting cleared the three officers of criminal wrongdoing in February 2020. They were not injured in the shooting incident.
The officers turned on red and blue flashing lights as they approached Hill, leaving no doubt they were law enforcement, McNamara said.
“He knew exactly who he was shooting at,” McNamara said. “He knew they were police officers, it was obvious.”
Deputies found about 80 grams of methamphetamine in Hill’s backpack, according to arrest records. Officials also found 2.9 grams of cocaine on Hill, along with a .25-caliber handgun and two 9 mm handguns, according to arrest affidavits.
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