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Colonial Heights man sentenced to 9 years for exchange of gunfire with Chesterfield police officer
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Colonial Heights man sentenced to 9 years for exchange of gunfire with Chesterfield police officer

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A Colonial Heights man was sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted Tuesday of trying to kill a Chesterfield County police officer.

Dante Lakeith Wilkes, 21, pleaded no contest to charges of attempted capital murder of a police officer, robbery and the use of a firearm while committing a felony. Prosecutors withdrew an additional firearms charge.

The charges stem from a robbery and subsequent shootout with police in November, prosecutor Benjamin Garrison said.

Wilkes entered the A Plus convenience store in the 9900 block of Chester Road shortly after 5 a.m. Nov. 24 and pointed a firearm at the clerk during a robbery, Garrison said.

Police responded and encircled the business, Garrison said, and Wilkes fled north after robbing the store of money, lottery tickets and cigarettes.

Wilkes went through a swampy area up to a nearby Waffle House, where he encountered Officer Christopher Hodges at the edge of the parking lot, Garrison said.

The prosecutor said Hodges identified himself as a police officer, and Wilkes then shot at him. Hodges returned fire, with the officer unloading his weapon behind him as he sought cover behind a vehicle at the Waffle House, Garrison said.

At that point, the officer and Wilkes had another exchange of gunfire, the prosecutor said. Wilkes eventually dropped his weapon and was arrested after crawling out of the swampy area.

While Hodges was unharmed, Wilkes suffered a superficial wound to his neck.

The defendant fired nine rounds during the exchange, the prosecutor said.

Although he admitted to the robbery, Wilkes denied trying to shoot Hodges, saying that he instead got his finger stuck in the weapon, shot into the air and accidentally shot himself in the neck, Garrison said.

But Wilkes’ version of events was contradicted by video surveillance, as well as by testimony from Hodges. The officer testified that he could see the muzzle flashes as the defendant shot at him, Garrison said.

Prior to his sentencing, Wilkes declined to give a statement to Chesterfield Circuit Judge T.J. Hauler. His pleas came as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Wilkes’ attorney, Cody Villalon, said his client is grateful that the officer was not hurt.

In pleading no contest, a defendant neither admits nor denies the charges, and it has the same immediate effect as a guilty plea.

Hauler imposed a 20-year prison sentence for the attempt on the officer’s life, and he suspended 14 years of that sentence. He also imposed a three-year sentence for using a gun while committing a felony. The judge issued a sentence of 40 years for the robbery but suspended all of the time.

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