The bullet that ended Lee Malek’s police career also ended the short, violent and prolific criminal rampage of the man who fired it.
And as the former Kansas City police officer views it, it likely saved others from falling victim to the murderous onslaught that Frederick D. Darrington Jr. unleashed on city streets.
In a span of three months, the 18-year-old Darrington killed two men, ran over two pedestrians and robbed numerous others at gunpoint before he was arrested after wounding Malek in a 30-shot barrage.
On Friday, a Jackson County judge ensured that the now 23-year-old shooter could spend the rest of his life paying for those crimes.
In a courtroom packed with officers and the families of victims, Darrington was sentenced to 44 years in prison for the 16 felony charges amassed from March to June 2007 — on top of the 35 years he already was serving for armed carjacking convictions in federal court and Wyandotte County.
Circuit Judge Kathleen Forsyth acknowledged that she is “notoriously lenient” in sentencing youthful offenders, but Darrington’s case was something else. The sentences she imposed bring the total prison time he is now serving to 79 years.
When Malek entered the courtroom Friday, the large contingent of officers in court stood in respect.
He had just been promoted to sergeant in June 2007 when his patrol car was nearly hit by a reckless driver. The car had been stolen at gunpoint a few hours earlier in Kansas City, Kan., and Malek pursued the vehicle until it stalled.
The driver, Darrington, jumped out with a Mac-10 semiautomatic and began firing at Malek, who fired back.
On Friday, he described how his leg was shattered by one bullet and he went down.
“I shot back. I couldn’t see him. I was just trying to keep him from killing me,” Malek said.
The officer’s gun was empty, but Darrington kept shooting with a weapon sporting a 30-round clip. Malek said he has no doubt Darrington was trying to kill him.
“I know how good you are at killing people,” he said to Darrington, who didn’t look up. “In my opinion, he’s a coward with a gun.”
Darrington was arrested later that night, hiding in a garage.
The gunshot wound ended Malek’s police career. He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and still suffers from nightmares and flashbacks.
He urged the judge to impose harsh sentences, not just for him but for all the victims and their families.
Ronnesha Smith was another of those victims. Her 25-year-old brother, Kevin Sherrils, was shot to death on March 20, 2007, as he walked near 74th and Harrison streets.
“To this day, we still don’t know why,” she said. “He was walking down the street minding his own business.”
Andre Taylor, 24, was shot numerous times in the back four days before Malek was wounded. Taylor was a victim of mistaken identity, according to testimony.
Darrington mistook him for a rival gang member when he opened fire on him near 86th Street and Drury Avenue.
Taylor had come home early from his job at Home Depot because he and his fiancé, Terra Blair, were celebrating their third anniversary together.
“I was there,” Blair said as she choked up. “I heard him saying ‘it’s not me. You got the wrong dude.’ ” .
The same gun was used to kill Taylor and wound Malek.
Assistant Prosecutor Janette Rodecap urged the judge to impose maximum, consecutive sentences to prevent Darrington from harming any more victims.
Defense attorney David Rowan requested a lighter sentence, arguing tha Darrington was not trying to kill the officer. He also disputed the contention that Darrington did not feel remorse.
Darrington did not speak during the sentencing.