ST. LOUIS • Two men recently convicted by separate juries in a 2015 drive-by shooting of a city police sergeant in the Central West End were sentenced Friday to prison.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Christopher McGraugh sentenced Dale “Butch” Wolford to 30 years in prison and Edward J. Davis, the driver, to 25 years for the July 14, 2015, attack on Sgt. Charles Lowe.
Wolford, 26, was found guilty last month of shooting Lowe; Davis, 30, was convicted Feb. 1 of the same charges. He was driving the vehicle that Wolford was riding in. Wolford hopped out and shot Lowe on Maryland Avenue.
Police have described the shooting as an unprovoked ambush on Lowe, but neither jury believed Wolford and Davis targeted Lowe because he is a police officer. Lowe was in uniform when he was shot while working his overnight security job, watching over the block from his parked, running personal car. He has credited his bullet-resistant vest with helping to save his life.
Lowe, who returned to duty about three months after the shooting, still works part-time security in St. Louis but not in the Central West End. He spoke Friday in court about the various ways the shooting caused losses — not just for him and his family but also of the time Wolford and Davis lost from their families as well as a sense of security in the neighborhood.
“A piece of me was lost that night and I’m still searching for it...,” Lowe said. “The community lost its way of life in a community traditionally free of this type of violent crime.”
Lowe’s wife, Kelli Lowe, talked about the anxiety the shooting caused her and her family, the “new normal” they’ve had to adapt to, and dangers police officers face across the country.
“It was not until later that I realized that this was just a warning shot of what was to come all across the nation,” Kelli Lowe said. “Just one year later, we faced Dallas and then Baton Rouge and then more officers (being shot) in our own state: Mike Flamion, Blake Snyder, and Tom Lake; the list goes on and on.”
She also spoke of the challenges of being a black police family amid elevated community tension with police nationwide, and said she thought our country had “forgotten that officers are human.”
“It is very hard for us especially in the atmosphere of protest as an African-American family to be both black and blue,” Kelli Lowe said. After the shooting, she said, “We wondered, did his life matter? We sometimes still do. We most certainly understand the protest. We understand frustration and anger. We feel it as well.”
Davis testified that he drove the car but was unaware of a plan to rob or shoot anyone, and thought he and the others were on a mission to buy painkillers. A gun was found under the driver’s seat but Davis denied it was his. Two other passengers of Davis’ car were not charged in the shooting.
Wolford and Davis apologized Friday to the Lowe family for their actions; Davis also said: “I’m here because of drugs. My addiction was out of control at that point, hurt my family and Charles’ family. Drugs controlled my life. I would like Charles to understand that.”
Surveillance video played for jurors at the trials showed a Ford Fusion with tinted windows pull in front of Lowe’s parked car, which was backed into a spot on Maryland . The video showed the front passenger hop out of the Ford and shoot into Lowe’s windshield.
McGraugh said Friday he agreed with the jury’s verdicts that evidence did not prove Lowe was targeted for being a police officer but also recognized the sacrifices officers make to protect citizens.
McGraugh said the defendants’ “predatory behavior” — circling city blocks looking to rob an unsuspecting victim — was part of what people feared most in St. Louis.
“That’s why people leave the city of St. Louis,” McGraugh said. “Innocent people walking the street in fear for their lives that they’ll become the next victim.”