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Hagerstown man sentenced to 17 years in May standoff with police

Neil Shawn LaPine admits he was trying to commit 'suicide by cop'

January 23, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Neil LaPine is led to a police cruiser by Hagerstown City Police Sgt. John Lehman after he barricaded himself inside a Little Hayden Circle home on Friday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

A Hagerstown man who admitted he was trying to “commit suicide by cop” during a May standoff with police was sentenced Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court to serve 17 years in prison.

Neil Shawn LaPine, 50, formerly of 12962 Little Hayden Circle, sat silently as Judge Donald E. Beachley read the sentence.

“I think it’s a tragic situation ... but this is just unacceptable from society’s standpoint,” Beachley said.

LaPine had been found guilty by a jury in October on three counts each of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment, two counts of discharging a firearm within city limits and one count of use of a handgun in a crime of violence.

Beachley initially sentenced LaPine to serve 60 years (20 years each) on the first-degree assault charges and 15 years on the use of a handgun in a crime of violence charge, but reduced the assault charges to 12 years each and the handgun charge to five years.

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Beachley ruled that the assault charges run concurrently and the handgun charge run consecutively, bringing the total sentence to 17 years.

No sentence was imposed on the reckless endangerment charges. Beachley ruled that LaPine already served his time on the discharging a firearm within city limits charges.

Before sentence was passed, several people, including LaPine’s sister and aunt, addressed the court. They said LaPine suffered from depression and didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

“He doesn’t have a history of anything like this,” LaPine’s sister said.

Defense attorney John Salvatore said police over-reacted by firing a nonlethal foam projectile at an unarmed LaPine when he came outside to talk.

“This was not handled in the best way,” Salvatore said. “... That command should not have been given. No one should have fired that shot.”

Beachley disagreed, saying LaPine testified during the trial that, “It’s on now,” after police fired the nonlethal shot. 

Police went to LaPine’s home in the Cortland Manor housing development on May 18 after a relative of his reported he was making suicidal threats, The Herald-Mail has reported. Officers said LaPine had been texting family members saying “good-bye” and asking that people take care of his mother.

LaPine refused to answer the door when police arrived, which prompted authorities to call the Washington County Special Response Team to set up a perimeter around the house, according to court documents.

Negotiators contacted LaPine by telephone and said he repeatedly told them that he intended to “commit suicide by cop,” meaning he wanted officers to shoot him during the stand off.

At one point in the negotiations, an officer fired a nonlethal hard foam pellet at LaPine’s chest when he walked outside, but he was able to make his way back in to the house. Immediately after LaPine closed the door, officers heard a gunshot from a large-caliber weapon inside the house.

“LaPine fired a shot toward the door, knowing (officers) ... were within a few yards, just on the other side of the door and could have been struck by a round,” charging documents associated with the case said.

Police said the bullet that LaPine fired went through a glass window on the front door.

The second count of discharging a firearm within city limits had to do with LaPine allegedly firing a shot in the house at the beginning of the standoff.

Negotiators determined during the standoff through statements from LaPine and family members that he had an AR-15 rifle and a .308-caliber rifle in the house.

LaPine eventually came out of the house and surrendered to police.

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