A man convicted of shooting into police officers’ homes will spend the rest of his natural life in prison.
David Watson was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison Nov. 22 in Sussex County Superior Courthouse. Before issuing the sentence, Judge T. Henley Graves told the 24-year-old defendant he would ensure Watson would pass away behind bars.
Two months ago, a jury found Watson guilty of multiple felony charges related to shooting into police officers’ houses in the night with his friend, Orrin Joudrey.
Joudrey pleaded guilty in June and testified against Watson during his trial. Joudrey was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
During testimony, Joudrey said he and Watson shot at two Maryland sheriff’s deputy’s homes on Parsonsburg Road on separate occasions in December 2012.
Joudrey said on Dec. 27, he took the driver’s seat and drove to the Laurel home of Dewey Beach Police Sgt. Cliff Dempsey, where Watson fired three shots into the house. Dempsey and his two young sons were asleep in the home when the shooting occurred.
Dempsey and his father-in-law, Horace Pepper, both spoke at Watson’s sentencing.
“I come from a very long line of civil service,” Dempsey said. He said he knew the job would entail putting himself in harm’s way. “I never, ever expected to be putting my family in danger,” he said.
Dempsey said he hopes his children will grow up to be police. “They saw how the criminal justice system helped them,” he said.
To Watson, Dempsey said, “I will forgive you someday. I can’t say the same for my children.”
Pepper said he got to Dempsey’s house five minutes after the shooting occurred to find his now 9-year-old grandson throwing up. He said he worries about how the shooting will impact his grandson in the future.
Pepper noted a tattoo on the back of Watson’s neck that reads “EVIL.” “Is this man salvageable?” Pepper asked. “I don’t think that he needs to be in society for quite a while.”
Graves said Pepper’s question was compassionate. “I’ve concluded that you can’t be salvaged,” he told Watson.
“You do things without remorse. You don’t care who you hurt,” Graves said. “You can’t play Russian roulette shooting into houses where people live.”
Graves sentenced Watson to 25 years for each of three counts of possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, eight years for each of two counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, and five years for each of three counts of first-degree reckless endangering.
“I’m satisfied that if you ever got out of prison that it wouldn’t take a week before your love affair with guns would be renewed,” Graves said. “I can’t take that chance.”
Watson seemed unaffected as he was escorted from the courtroom. His attorney, James Murray, said he was not surprised by the sentence. “He’s going to appeal. I can tell you that much,” Murray said.
Dempsey said he could not comment on the sentence until the charges against Watson and Joudrey that are still pending in Maryland are resolved.