Suspect in Jackson shootout bound over for trial

Friday, August 31, 2012
Lawrence Guthrie

A Jackson man facing criminal charges for assaulting his estranged spouse and initiating a shootout with police in June was apparently being treated by a Veterans Affairs psychologist for post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the incident, his wife testified in court Thursday.

Lawrence Guthrie, 46, was bound over for trial by Judge Gary Kamp, who set a Sept. 10 arraignment before Judge Benjamin Lewis. Guthrie's wife and three law enforcement officers testified during Thursday's hourlong preliminary hearing about the June 13 assaults and exchange of gunfire that culminated with Guthrie, a military veteran, shooting himself in the head.

"I don't know who that was who walked through the door," his wife said. "It wasn't the same man who left." The Southeast Missourian isn't identifying Guthrie's wife due to a policy of not identifying domestic violence victims.

His wife said Guthrie, whom she was legally separated from, was on 13 medications, including several antidepressants, and had met with a VA psychologist in May. When Guthrie returned to their Jackson home the afternoon of June 13, his wife said, he was visibly agitated and behaving in ways she had never observed before.

Guthrie told his wife he hated her, threw her cellphone to the floor and beat her, she said. He blackened her eye and punched and kicked her, she said. When she went to retrieve her phone from the floor, he told her he'd had enough. That's when he went to get a gun from his pickup that was parked on their relatively quiet cul-de-sac.

But Guthrie had announced his intentions and his wife had grabbed her gun from its laundry-room hiding spot, she testified. When Guthrie saw she had her firearm, that's when he began to fire in her direction, she said. She sought protection in a place between a door and the wall, and she believes he emptied his clip. She went physically unscathed. When his clip was empty, his wife took refuge in the basement and locked the door.

But three police officers testified later that Guthrie wasn't done yet. When law enforcement arrived at the Guthrie home in Jackson's Broadridge neighborhood, they were greeted by gunfire -- they say from a man who was shooting to kill. Guthrie faces three charges of assault on a police officer, one of first-degree domestic assault and one of armed criminal action. If found mentally sound and convicted, Guthrie faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

When troopers arrived to assist Jackson police, Guthrie fled into the woods and a chase ensued. The three officers who testified were Lt. David James of the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department, Jackson Lt. Scott Eakers and Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Shawn Price. All three said Thursday that Guthrie fired upon them several times and described the sound of gunfire and the whir of bullets going past.

"There was no doubt in my mind that was what was happening," Price said when asked if Guthrie was trying to shoot him.

When police returned fire, Guthrie did have buckshot wounds to both arms, although he later told authorities that his facial wound was self-inflicted. Guthrie was in court Thursday, with his jaw in a brace. Several of Guthrie's family members were also present in the courtroom.

Under cross-examination, Guthrie's lawyer, Bryan Greaser, suggested that his client was "not in his right mind that day" and acknowledged after the proceeding Thursday that he is exploring the possibility that Guthrie is not criminally responsible for his actions because of his mental disorder. At least one, and perhaps several, psychiatric evaluations will likely take place, Greaser said.

Greaser said Guthrie has no memory of the incidents of that day and that it's clear that Guthrie "didn't appreciate the consequences" of his actions. Guthrie remained in custody in lieu of a $500,000 bond.

Cape Girardeau County assistant prosecutor Angel Woodruff would not discuss the specifics of the case Thursday. But, in general terms, she said if someone is relying on a diminished mental capacity defense, mental evaluations are typically done by private psychiatrists or the Missouri Department of Mental Health. In such cases, she said, if both parties agree, a defendant can avoid trial and be committed to a mental health facility.

Jackson police chief James Humphreys said after the hearing that any time the lives of law enforcement officers are in danger that it's obviously atop their list of concerns.

"Anytime you've got stray bullets flying around and they're directed at you, it's real serious," Humphreys said. "We just never know what we're facing each and every day when we come to work and put on the badge. It didn't end with a loss of life, but it certainly could have."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

1240 Bainbridge Drive, Jackson, MO

100 Court St., Jackson, MO

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