A Chauvin man is guilty of attempted murder of a Houma Police officer, a jury decided Thursday.
Wendell Cody Matthews of Chauvin, 28, ran from Houma Police officers Kelly Champagne and Keith Besson Nov. 4, 2009 when he saw them patrolling near Daniel Turner Court, police said. The chase led to the corner of Bayouside Drive and Anacin Street, where Matthews exited his car and ran.
Champagne tried to subdue Matthews with a Taser, and Matthews fired at Champagne, police said. Bullets struck Champagne’s bulletproof vest and grazed his left arm. The vest protected Champagne from getting struck in the chest.
Champagne returned fire on Matthews, hitting him once in each leg and once in the shoulder. He was found beneath a trailer.
Matthews was also charged with aggravated flight from an officer, illegal possession of a stolen firearm and illegal carrying of a weapon.
He was found guilty on all four charges.
The Terrebonne Parish jury returned its verdict Thursday evening after deliberating for an hour and 20 minutes.
Matthews faces up to 50 years in prison on the attempted-first degree-murder charge, but prosecutor Chris Erny says he plans to charge Matthews as a habitual offender, which means he could face up to 100 years.
A court hearing on that issue is scheduled for July.
Matthews’ attorney, John Thomas, argued that there was another person in the car with his client who died a year and a half ago and suggested the alleged accomplice could have done the shooting.
Thomas also said there was no physical evidence linking Matthews to the Springfield 40-caliber gun that shot Champagne. Thomas said his client should only be found guilty of flight from an officer and not guilty on all other charges.
Erny, however, said that no physical evidence, such as DNA or fingerprints from the gun, was tested because the defense had only introduced the argument this past Tuesday that Matthews wasn’t alone during the incident.
“We didn’t test it because it was never an issue,” Erny said during closing arguments. “If I would have known the defense would say someone else could have done the shooting, I would have requested the tests myself.”
Erny said the verdict makes an important statement.
“This case is a testament to the guys in blue who, on that day, put their life on the line in service to the community,” Erny said. “Particularly HPD officer Kelly Champagne, who bravely pursued the defendant and ultimately took a bullet to the chest while apprehending this dangerous felon.”