ST. LOUIS • Former city police officer Don McGhee was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison for giving a shotgun to someone he knew to be a drug dealer.
McGhee, 28, apologized, saying he had put his family and “support team” through a lot in the past seven months, including near-fatal wounds from a shooting in December.
When he pleaded guilty in April of conspiracy to possess a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, McGhee admitted being aware of a group that stored and dealt drugs from a house in the 3800 block of Cottage Avenue. That is just outside the 6th District, where he was assigned. The officer also associated with at least one of the dealers.
McGhee acknowledged giving a Mossberg 12-gauge pistol-grip shotgun to one of the dealers on March 2, 2014. The shotgun, drugs and three other firearms were seized in a search days later, after a months-long investigation.
He was off duty Dec. 19 when he was shot in a private vehicle at the curb in the 3800 block of North 25th Street by someone in another car. McGhee returned fire, killing Terrell Beasley, 28, of the 4000 block of Cleveland Avenue, officials said. Beasley’s body was found in a burning vehicle in the Baden neighborhood a few hours later.
A recent parolee, Dominic Irons, was driving the vehicle, according to police. He was charged with shooting McGhee and with second-degree murder in the death of Beasley.
Irons’ lawyer, Jerryl Christmas, wrote in an email to a reporter that McGhee had been driving a drug dealer’s vehicle when he was shot. The lawyer criticized prosecutors for charging Irons but treating McGhee like a victim.
“You don’t know which side some of these police officers are on, and now they have turned the city of St. Louis into the wild, wild West. It’s only going to get worse and nobody is going to be safe,” he wrote.
U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig referred to the shooting Tuesday, saying it appeared to be associated with the man who received the shotgun. McGhee still suffers some residual effects. In April, he told Fleissig that he takes blood thinners, a painkiller and medicine for severe nerve damage.
Under federal guidelines, McGhee faced 24 to 30 months in prison. Lawyers on both sides recommended two years.
McGhee joined the force in May 2011. It was not clear when McGhee came under a local-federal investigation that Police Chief Sam Dotson has said continues.
At the time of the plea, defense lawyer John Bouhasin insisted that McGhee was not in some “big conspiracy to sell dope” but simply knew drug dealers from when they all were younger.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rea said Tuesday that McGhee knew the gun would be used by drug dealers, and that some of them were “trigger-pullers.” McGhee, he said, violated his oath to protect the public and “emboldened what they were doing.”
Defense lawyer Ethan Corlija said McGhee had been injured before, in the line of duty, and “did do a lot of good.” He said his client has expressed “tremendous remorse.”
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan issued a statement that says the matter “again proved” that St. Louis police “had the will and the integrity to investigate wrongdoing within (their) own department.”