A 30-year-old Petersburg man has been convicted of felony assault and several lesser charges stemming from his armed standoff with police last fall. The 12 local jurors found Jace Cunningham guilty on two counts of felony assault in the third degree for placing two officers in fear of imminent, serious injury with a dangerous weapon. There were another three officers on the scene during the standoff but the jury found Cunningham not guilty on four additional counts of the same felony assault charge. Instead, they convicted him of four counts of fourth degree assault, a misdemeanor offense.
The jury also found Cunningham guilty of five other misdemeanors including driving under the influence, refusal to submit to a chemical test, possessing a weapon while intoxicated, and two counts of criminal mischief in the 5th degree.
The confrontation occurred at a police roadblock on a dark night last October. Police were responding to reports that Cunningham was drunk, suicidal, and parked in his vehicle with an assault rifle out Frederick point road. They set up the blockade after officers and mental health counselors were unable to make headway with Cunningham over the phone.
The assault convictions were partly based on police testimony that Cunningham fired a couple shots from his AR-15 rifle while trying to drive away from the roadblock, and that he later aimed his weapon at Sgt. Heidi Agner while she was trying to talk him into giving up. The state’s evidence also included police audio tape of the incident during which Cunningham threatened to shoot officers at the scene and told Agner that she was in his rifle scope.
The Jury reached the verdict Saturday night after a three day trial and more than a day of deliberations.
The two felony assault convictions can carry a sentence of up to five years each. The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor assault is one year. Cunningham’s sentencing is scheduled for June 24th in Petersburg.