Police Officer Mark Uffelman, a tall, reserved man, lost his composure yesterday as he related to a judge how being shot last year - and almost dying - has haunted him.
On the verge of tears, he said in court in a voice that suddenly cracked, "I could also picture my son . . . in here and giving a victim's statement if I wasn't here."
Uffelman, 53, was shot in the arm about 1:30 a.m. June 24 near 8th and Fitzwater streets after he and his partner interrupted a robbery and chased the two culprits.
Yesterday, Common Pleas Judge Denis Cohen sentenced the shooter - Rakin Thabit, 43, of Camden - to 17 to 40 years in state prison.
Thabit pleaded guilty in April to charges of attempted murder, possession of a firearm, robbery and conspiracy.
Uffelman yesterday told the judge how he had raised his arm to shield his body as he chased Thabit, who was shooting at him while running on 8th Street, near Fitzwater. He said that he had not pulled out his weapon.
Despite being wounded, Uffelman chased Thabit down.
Uffelman also said yesterday, in response to a question from Assistant District Attorney Caroline Keating, that his father, Charles, who was also a police officer, had been killed in 1978. The elder Uffelman had been carjacked, robbed and beaten to death while off duty.
Public defender Francis Carmen told Cohen that his client did not have a long history of arrests and had more recently worked at a Papa John's pizza shop, where he was a manager.
A friend of Thabit's who asked that only her last name of Mosley be printed said Thabit has been her best friend and "an inspiration" and "father figure" to her children. Her daughter, Cherie Brown, 21, testified that "this crime does not define his [Thabit's] character as a person."
Thabit said he thanks God that Uffelman wasn't seriously injured and said he was "deeply sorry."
Keating had asked for a sentence of 30 to 60 years.
Cohen told Thabit that "Officer Uffelman is lucky just to be alive" and called this a "heinous, heinous offense."
After the sentencing, Uffelman said:
"I thought he [Thabit] should have got a few more years . . . He shouldn't have gotten rewarded for just taking a shot at a cop and missing, basically . . . He got a light sentence."
He said he has twin sons, who are now 21.
His partner, David McAndrews, 36, added that while "the judge acknowledged the seriousness of the defendant's actions . . . I expected something more substantial."