ST. LOUIS — As Antonio Andrews was about to be sentenced Friday to spend the rest of his life in prison, he spoke out for the first time since being accused of killing a city police officer.
“I hope y’all are happy,” Andrews, 17, said in St. Louis Circuit Court. “You are taking my life, and I didn’t do this. You’ve got the wrong guy.”
In August, a jury had deliberated just over five hours before deciding Andrews was the right guy, the one who shot Officer Norvelle Brown rather than take a chance of being caught carrying a gun.
Circuit Judge Dennis Schaumann imposed the only punishment available for the first-degree murder conviction — life in prison without the possibility of parole — adding 50 years more for armed criminal action.
Several members of Andrews’ family wore T-shirts to court that read: “Free Tonio.”
Some of Brown’s family was in the courtroom, too, but chose not to address the judge.
Police Chief Dan Isom, who got to know Brown through the Police Athletic League’s track team, said later that he was pleased with the sentence but knew it was a sad day for everyone involved.
“I hope this sends a message to young people to think before you act — your decisions can have life-altering consequences that you can’t take back,” he said.
Andrews was 15 when Brown was shot to death in the 1600 block of Semple Avenue on Aug. 15, 2007. The court certified Andrews for trial as an adult.
Jurors were faced with conflicting evidence. At least two eyewitnesses told detectives in video-recorded statements that they saw Andrews shoot Brown. But on the witness stand, they claimed police had coerced their statements.
One teen who was with Andrews that evening testified that they were walking to a Chinese restaurant when Brown pulled alongside them. The teens ran, and Brown gave chase, according to testimony.
The prosecutor said Andrews told his friend before opening fire that he was tired of running from the police.
Andrews did not testify.
Brown, 22, on the force for one year, had fired a single shot from his pistol before it jammed, according to testimony. Fellow officers found the gun lying near him. Brown had been hit once in the shoulder, through an opening in his bullet-resistant vest.