Mont. jury convicts Va. man of trying to kill cops

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Associated Press

Posted on May 6, 2013 at 9:35 PM

Updated Monday, May 6 at 9:37 PM

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A jury has found a Virginia man guilty of trying to kill seven Montana law enforcement officers by throwing pipe bombs at their vehicles during a chase in north-central Montana.

Laurence Alan Stewart II was convicted Monday in Great Falls of seven counts of attempted deliberate homicide for his actions during a 45-minute chase Nov. 1, The Great Falls Tribune reported. (http://gftrib.com/ZBO991 ).

Cascade County Attorney John Parker said his office would seek a sentence of life in prison without parole.

"I'm deeply grateful for the jury's hard work and for seeing this incident for what it was," Parker said. "It was a direct threat on the lives of seven sworn peace officers."

Stewart's attorney declined to comment on the verdict.

At the time of the chase, Stewart was wanted for setting off pipe bombs Oct. 30 in Stafford County, Va., at the homes of two law enforcement officers and his ex-fiancee, who had a restraining order against him. That information was not included in the Montana trial, and those charges are still pending.

Several officers testified about the chase between Stanford and Belt, two Montana towns about 40 miles apart that are southeast of Great Falls. Jurors also watched dash-camera video and a profanity-laced video Stewart mailed to his father in which he threatened to kill any police officers who tried to arrest him.

Sgt. Landon Koteskey testified Friday that he didn't see Stewart throw a pipe bomb from his vehicle but noticed the bomb just as his vehicle was passing over it as he pursued Stewart.

"There was no way to stop," he said. "I went over it and braced for impact."

The explosion dinged the tailgate of his pickup truck but did not cause significant damage, Koteskey said.

Defense attorney Steven Scott argued the bombs exploded far enough away from law enforcement officers that they weren't injured and that Stewart's intent in throwing them was more of a warning for police to leave him alone.

"There is no question that Mr. Stewart was in the car. There is no question Laurence threw the pipe bombs as police chased him," Scott told jurors. "The reason we are in trial, and the issue you have to decide, is that his actions were attempted murder or something else."

Cascade County Attorney John Parker argued Stewart's intent was documented in both the act of throwing pipe bombs and in statements made in the video he sent to his father on a computer memory card.

"People will die, I guarantee it," Stewart said in the video message.

"The bottom line is he built the bomb, lit it and threw it," Parker said. "I think we're more than there on all seven counts."

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com

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