KINGMAN - A Kingman man will serve seven years for nearly crushing an officer on a chase through Kingman in July.
John E. Demko Jr., 22, was sentenced to two years in prison on one count of aggravated assault and five years on another count of aggravated assault. The sentences are to be served consecutively, or one after the other. He received credit for 281 days served in the county jail. The sentence was part of a plea agreement Demko accepted on April 2.
The difference in prison time for the two felony counts is based on the severity of the assaults. In the first count, Demko smashed a truck he had taken from his brother-in-law into the side of a police cruiser while the two vehicles were driving down Interstate 40, endangering the life of the officer inside.
In the second count, Demko pinned Kingman Police Detective Todd Foster, nearly crushing the officer against the side of a Mohave County Sheriff's Office Ford Explorer with the truck while trying to escape. Foster was forced to shoot Demko in order to avoid being crushed. Demko was injured in the shooting and was treated at Kingman Regional Medical Center.
While both assaults were serious offenses, the fact that Demko acted in a way that could have killed or injured Foster and that Foster had to shoot Demko made it a more serious sentence, said Superior Court Judge Steven Conn.
"He certainly did not go quietly into submission," Conn said. "He had numerous opportunities to yield to police."
On July 23, Demko took a truck belonging to his brother-in-law without permission from the north Kingman area. When officers attempted to stop Demko, he drove down Stockton Hill Road toward the Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course and escaped by driving over residential lawns and part of the golf course. Officers finally boxed him in at the intersection of Stockton Hill Road, Hualapai Mountain Road and Andy Devine Avenue.
At that point, Demko threw his truck into reverse and smashed into an officer's cruiser. He then put the truck into drive and nearly crushed Foster against the side of a MCSO Ford Explorer. Foster shot at Demko, injuring him.
Demko escaped to Interstate 40, drove a short distance going the wrong way, then turned around and headed back toward Kingman. When an officer attempted to keep Demko from exiting the interstate, Demko rammed into the side of an officer's cruiser. Officers were able to bring Demko's vehicle to a stop, but he refused to exit the vehicle. He had to be tased in order to be removed from the vehicle.
"It will be a day that I'll always remember," Foster said. "I still have flashbacks."
Foster told the court he remembers seeing Demko shift the truck first into neutral and hearing the engine revving, then seeing Demko shift it into reverse and hit a police cruiser behind him. Then Demko looked at Foster, shifted the truck into drive and drove straight at him. Foster could remember the pain as he was crushed against the side of an MCSO cruiser and knew he had to shoot at Demko in order to avoid being killed or injured.
"I knew I was in danger," Foster said. "I just wanted to stop his actions."
Foster's voice cracked as he told the court that he was the sole income for his wife and two children and how they would have had to survive without him.
"He not only put my life in danger, but other officers and the public's," Foster said. He asked that Demko serve the maximum prison time available not only for what Demko could have done to him and his family, but for all the danger that he placed all officers in that day.
Demko's attorney, Bryan Whitney, agreed that the facts were tragic. He noted Demko was receiving treatment from Mohave Mental Health for mental disorders and at the time of the incident was hearing voices.
Since that time, Demko's demeanor has changed drastically.
"He's no longer the same person," Whitney said. Doctors believe that a past history of drug and alcohol use helped to create the mental health problems Demko was suffering. The medication he was given to control the mental health problems only contributed to his actions on the day of the chase. Once he was in jail and off the medications, Demko began to stabilize.
He is now an entirely different person and very remorseful and grateful that his actions on July 23 did not seriously injure or kill an officer, Whitney said.
There is no evidence that Demko was using drugs or alcohol the day of the chase.
County Attorney Michael McGill agreed that Demko had some mental health problems, however that was not a justification for what happened.
"There are certain things that an officer should accept as part of job," McGill said. "There are also things that an officer should not have to accept as part of his job. One of those is having a pick-up truck driven at you by someone who cannot comprehend what they are doing."
"I was there when my son was shot," said John Demko Sr. "I know he did wrong and should be punished."
Demko Sr. asked the court to place his son on probation. If he could work with the courts and his son perhaps his son's story could make the community a better place.
"He's a good kid," Demko Sr. said. He apologized to the officers that his son might have harmed. He lost his daughter over the incident and didn't want to lose his son too.
"You don't know what love is until you lose your family," he said.
Because Demko, Jr. was pleading guilty and not insane and because of the severity of the assault on Foster, probation was not appropriate, Conn said.