WOODSTOCK — A Shenandoah County man received prison time for engaging in a shootout with law enforcement officers in August 2020.
Sean Patrick Dempsey pleaded guilty in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Wednesday to seven counts of attempted malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer and one count of use of a firearm in the commission of the felony.
Dempsey, 27, of Woodstock, appeared with his attorney, Molly Newton. Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda McDonald Wiseley prosecuted the case. Dempsey avoided a trial set for this week by entering a plea deal reached between the two attorneys.
Authorities accused Dempsey of shooting at law enforcement officers at his Back Road residence on Aug. 20, 2020. No officer reported injuries but bullets struck several of their vehicles at the scene. Dempsey fled the scene in a vehicle, drove to Winchester Medical Center and then surrendered to authorities.
Judge William W. Sharp sentenced Dempsey to 45 years in a state penitentiary with 36 years suspended, leaving the defendant with nine years to serve. Specifically, Sharp sentenced Dempsey to seven consecutive, 6-year terms for each attempted malicious wounding charge. Sharp suspended three years of two of the terms. The judge sentenced Dempsey to the 3-year mandatory term for the firearm charge. Sharp gave Dempsey credit for time served. Dempsey has been incarcerated at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail since his arrest Aug. 21, 2020.
A grand jury indicted Dempsey on Feb. 10, 2021, on eight counts of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer — seven with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and a Virginia State Police trooper. The plea agreement called for Dempsey to plead guilty to the amended indictments reflecting the lesser charges. The indictments charged Dempsey with attempted capital murder of Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office Lt. W.P. Hall II, deputies Warren Poff, S.M. Wymer, R.A. Taylor, D.C. Smith, B.J. DeMay and state Trooper C. Bare. The grand jury also indicted Dempsey on the firearm charge, which remains unchanged with the agreement. Per the agreement, Sharp dismissed the eighth attempted capital murder charge.
Wiseley gave a synopsis of the evidence the prosecution planned to present had the case gone to trial, which had been scheduled for this week. Deputies Taylor, Smith and Lt. Hall responded to a domestic assault reported at the Back Road residence on Aug. 20, 2020. Dispatchers told officers before arrival that the caller said the assault involved a firearm, Wiseley said. Officers arrived, met with a person at the residence and told that individual to take cover. Officers went around the back of the house and saw two males struggling.
Officers told both people to stop struggling and to show their hands. One of the individuals stood up and ran off. Dempsey grabbed a shotgun hidden in a pool and pointed the firearm at Smith, Wiseley said. Smith took cover and ran around to the front of the house and ducked behind his vehicle parked in the driveway. Smith could see Dempsey lying prone on the ground aiming the shotgun at him. Smith told Dempsey to drop the weapon. Dempsey shouted expletives at the deputy and then ran to the rear of the residence. Deputies heard a loud noise and then moved their vehicles away from the residence.
“After (deputies) were able to move some of the vehicles down, they were able to see the defendant exiting from the front door and he fired multiple shots in the direction of the deputies,” Wiseley said.
More officers including Woodstock police and state troopers arrived at the scene. Officers could see muzzle fire through windows inside the home. Poff and Wymer saw Dempsey switch from a smaller firearm to a larger weapon. Wymer observed rounds fired in the officers’ direction and several more over their heads in the direction of their vehicles, Wiseley said. Wymer saw that two shots had struck one of the vehicles.
“Approximately 50 minutes after the call was initially dispatched and after taking several rounds of gunfire ... all the while law enforcement is trying to return gunfire to get (Dempsey) to surrender, officers saw a blue sedan leaving the residence at a high rate of speed.”
Officers pursued but lost sight of the vehicle, Wiseley said. Dempsey later stated he had gone to Walmart near Winchester Medical Center before he surrendered to authorities, Wiseley said.
The prosecutor added that Dempsey apparently was “highly” intoxicated during the incident. While he was at the hospital, Dempsey still showed a blood alcohol content of 0.08, Wiseley said. For that reason, the commonwealth could not move forward with premeditation on Dempsey’s part, Wiseley said.
Sharp accepted the agreement, which also included the punishment. Sharp said that the sentencing guidelines recommend Dempsey serve less time than prescribed in the agreement. Sharp noted that the sentence is appropriate given the evidence.
Sharp also ordered Dempsey to pay $1,814 in restitution, per the agreement.