Front Royal man gets 15 years for injuring police in brawls

By Joe Beck

FRONT ROYAL — Clyde Eugene Burrell Jr. sent three law enforcement officers to the hospital in two incidents within a few months of each other. On Tuesday, Burrell learned the price for his brawling ways will be 15 years in prison.

Warren County Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp imposed the sentence, the maximum allowable under a plea agreement reached in October between Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden and Public Defender Timothy Coyne.

Under the plea agreement, the prosecution dropped a charge of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, and Burrell pleaded guilty to two counts of malicious bodily injury to law enforcement officers, assault and battery against another officer and obstructing justice in resisting arrest.

Hupp suspended an additional 40 years to the sentence, which also includes five to 10 years of supervised probation and lifetime unsupervised probation.

In remarks before pronouncing the sentence, Hupp left no doubt that Burrell had hurt himself with rambling testimony he delivered moments before.

I don’t see a need to belabor this,” Hupp said. “Quite frankly, Mr. Burrell, you are a dangerous man.

“Quite frankly, I found your testimony today disturbing. I see little hope that you are going to change. My intention is to put you away before you kill somebody.”

The sentencing hearing included testimony from Front Royal Sgt. Bryan Courtney, the most seriously injured of Burrell’s three victims.

Courtney spent 21/2 days in Warren Memorial Hospital, almost seven months off duty and another two months on light duty before returning to street patrols in the aftermath of a brutal beating he received from Burrell on July 28, 2012.

Courtney described stopping Burrell on North Shenandoah Avenue after hearing a report of a drunk man in the area exposing himself to motorists and passersby. Courtney said Burrell matched the description he had heard.

Moments after leaving his patrol car, Burrell charged him and delivered a punch to the side of the head with enough momentum that it carried both men to the ground, Courtney said.

The struggle continued with Burrell striking Courtney with the officer’s baton after wresting it away from him. Courtney said the 225-pound Burrell also slammed his head to the ground several times and raked his eyes with his fingers.

“At that point, I realized I was in the fight of my life, and he was trying to do serious damage or kill me,” Courtney said of Burrell.

Moments before Burrell was about to hit him with the baton again, Detective Jason Lethcoe arrived on the scene, tackled Burrell and brought him under control with the help of a woman bystander. Lethcoe was also injured in the fight, but he was released later the same night from the hospital.

Courtney listed his injuries as a concussion, a 2-inch cut on his forehead, a 1-inch cut on the palm of one hand, swelling around the eyes and rest of the face, spinal accessory damage behind the right shoulder blade, a damaged thumb tendon, scrapes on the cornea of both eyes and later development of a cataract in the right eye caused by the trauma of the fight.

He is still feeling the effects of some of the injuries.

A few months later, Burrell punched Warren County Deputy Thomas Ratigan in the face and broke his jaw during a confrontation in the jail.

Burrell and others testifying on his behalf said he had stopped taking medication prescribed for him and started drinking in the weeks before the confrontation with Courtney.

Psychologist Bernard Lewis of Winchester, who conducted an evaluation of Burrell, testified he strongly believed the defendant appeared to suffer from a mental disorder that he described as a “middle ground” between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Lewis said he noticed a pattern in Burrell’s lengthy history of mental health evaluations and treatments.

“When he stopped taking his medication or went back to drinking alcohol, he caused trouble for himself and others,” Lewis testified.

Burrell testified that he had been drinking beer and wine at a nearby restaurant and bar in the hours before he encountered Courtney.

Burrell testified he had stopped taking his medications because he disliked their side effects.

“It seemed like the medication stopped me from becoming a 35-year-old adult,” Burrell said, referring to his age.

Burrell said he felt Front Royal police had been targeting him for harassment and arrest in the weeks leading up to his attack on Courtney. Burrell said he believed he was headed for more trouble when he saw Courtney get out of his car on Shenandoah Avenue.

“I thought ‘oh no, here we go again,'” Burrell said, adding, “I just wasn’t going take it anymore.”

Courtney said after the hearing he would like to have seen Burrell receive a longer sentence, but called the 15-year prison term “adequate” under the terms of the plea agreement.

Burrell’s sentence also included an order that he pay about $25,900 restitution for Courtney’s medical bills, most or all of which are covered by insurance. But Courtney said he doubted anybody would ever be getting any money from Burrell.

“If and when he enters society again, I don’t see anything good coming from it,” Courtney said of Burrell.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com