A Philadelphia man who shot and wounded an Abington patrolman in 2008 during a domestic dispute has become the first person convicted under a law protecting police officers from gun violence.
Leon Bailado, 33, who earns a living in Philadelphia doing odd jobs, was convicted Wednesday night after eight hours of jury deliberation in a Montgomery County courtroom.
Pennsylvania's 2008 law titled Assault on Law Enforcement Officer makes it a first-degree felony to discharge a firearm in an attempt to shoot a police officer, or to actually hit an officer with a bullet.
"This legislation and this particular defendant will be the poster child for what will happen if you commit a serious crime against a police officer," said state Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery), who sponsored the statute.
Bailado faces a mandatory 20 to 40 years in state prison under the statute and is likely to serve 80 percent of that, said his attorney, Gabriel Z. Levin.
"It's just a sad situation. No one wins here," said Levin, who argued unsuccessfully that Bailado was attempting "suicide by cop."
In the incident Dec. 22, 2008, the mother of the defendant's children called 911 in fear for her life, police said. Officers went to a home in the 2000 block of Cross Street in Abington, where the woman had fled to be with her parents.
Three patrolmen including Officer Robert Davis, a 10-year veteran, responded and confronted Bailado in the back yard. Bailado and the officers exchanged gunfire; Davis was hit in the left knee, and Bailado in the face, buttocks, back, and thigh.
Both recovered, and Davis is back on duty, said Assistant District Attorney Kenneth R. Steele.
Asked how his client survived multiple gunshot wounds, Levin said: "Angels."
No one else was injured.
The incident took place six days after enactment of the statute.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said she was gratified by the conviction.
"When a criminal is willing to fire a gun at a cop, that person should lose the privilege of freedom for a very long time," she said. "It is the very least we can do, as a community, to keep our protectors safe."
Levin stressed that Bailado was a first-time offender who had struggled for years with depression and suicidal thoughts. His intent on Dec. 22 was for the patrolmen to kill him, Levin said.
"Unfortunately, they concluded that he intended to shoot a police officer," Levin said of the jury. "But in court, he apologized to the officers and thanked them for saving his life."