David T. Turley, the man charged with the October shooting of Owensboro Police Department officer Zach Morris, pleaded guilty to assault under extreme emotional disturbance in Daviess County Circuit Court Monday.
Turley took a plea deal and was placed on unsupervised probation — also known as diversion — for two years.
Morris was responding to a call of a suspicious person near the 500 block of Hathaway Street on October 10, 2018, when Kentucky State Police say a homeowner, Turley, thought the officer was the suspect and fired at him after being fired at first by Morris.
Morris, who no longer works for OPD, recovered from the gunshot after surgery.
Turley was charged with first-degree felony assault in an indictment returned by the Daviess County Grand Jury on Dec. 6.
Turley had pleaded not guilty, and a trial was scheduled for Tuesday, July 9, but his attorney, Evan Taylor, submitted a motion to enter a change of plea, and a diversion hearing was scheduled for July 8.
Taylor said the diversion sentence is lesser than probation. Turley technically wasn’t convicted and, if he doesn’t get into trouble for the next two years, all charges against him will be dropped.
Even though Taylor filed a motion for a guilty plea, he said his client — a law-abiding 62-year-old man — received a sentencing that was best for him. Turley won’t be forced to pay any court costs or fees, and negotiations were made that allowed him to have his firearm back.
“He controlled his own fate,” Taylor said. “There’s a part of me that wants to see the police officer questioned [about his actions], but Mr. Turley wants to make sure he can get the health care he needs. He promised his grandkids he’d be there for them. It’s really admirable.”
To take this case to trial would have added additional pressure to Turley, Taylor said, as his client has been battling prostate cancer since this case originated.
“He’s feeling relieved. He knows he didn’t do anything wrong,” Taylor said. “He took minimal accountability to avoid worrying about being convicted.”
Taylor said it isn’t uncommon for last-minute changes to take place before a case goes to trial.
“A lot of times, the last and best offer doesn’t come until the end, and he received a minimal consequence,” he said. “Finding 12 people who were going to convict him was going to be a challenge, and the Commonwealth knew that.”
Owensboro Times was unable to reach Commonwealth Attorney Bruce Kuegel for comment.