It was only by the grace of God that Garrett Howard and Richmond County sheriff’s Cpl. Chad Cheek stood in a courtroom Thursday, the officer told the Augusta teen.
The shots that Howard fired at him came within 10 inches of hitting him between the eyes, Cheek said. Cheek, a veteran police officer, a former Marine and an expert marksman, said Howard was also lucky not to be killed Dec. 3, 2011.
Howard, convicted last month of shooting at Cheek, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison, followed by five years’ probation for aggravated assault and weapons violations.
“You shot at him twice. You tried to kill a man in cold blood,” Richmond County Superior Court Judge Michael N. Annis said.
Howard was 15 that afternoon when Cheek spotted him jumping, yelling and waving a handgun on 15th Street. Cheek was off-duty but driving his emergency vehicle and wearing his uniform because he was on his way to provide security for the Christmas parade.
Cheek pulled behind Howard and turned on the emergency lights and sirens on the truck. Howard turned and fired two shots at Cheek before fleeing through Cherry Tree Crossing public housing complex.
Previous cases against Howard – burglary in 2009, burglary and obstruction of an officer in 2010, and thefts and drugs in 2011 – were adjudicated in Juvenile Court, Assistant District Attorney Sam Nicholson reminded the judge Thursday.
Public defender Kelli Spencer tried to explain what happened. She said that Howard has needed medication for mental health for much of his life but that it made him feel like a zombie and he would skip doses. The day of the shooting was one of those times, Spencer said.
A new medication given to him since his arrest has made an extreme difference, Spencer said. While in custody at a juvenile facility, where he was held until turning 17, Howard made good grades and never got a disciplinary demerit, she said.
Cheek said Thursday that his most frequent prayer is that Howard will learn how to respect himself and others.
“May God be with you,” Cheek told the teen.