Published on Tuesday, July 11, 2006
in the St. Petersburg Times
Darian Wright, who has a history of violence against law enforcement officers, could have received life in prison.
TAMPA - Not yet 30, Darian Maurice Wright already had a history of violence against law enforcement officers when he came face to face with Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Brandon McElderry.
On Jan. 5, 2005, the man known as "Fat Cat" took that violence to a new level when he wrestled away McElderry's department-issued Beretta and shot the trooper in the thigh.
The attempted felony murder charge could have sent the Tampa sex offender to prison for life. But a negotiated plea agreement last week with prosecutors cut his prison sentence to 23 years.
Wright, 29, pleaded guilty on Thursday to a litany of dangerous crimes surrounding the shooting. The plea deal, approved by Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta, also called for 10 years of probation.
All because of a traffic stop gone bad.
McElderry, then a 30-year-old, two-year patrol veteran from Riverview, tried to pull Wright over for an expired temporary tag. Wright got off Interstate 275 at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and stopped at N 10th St.
A fight ensued. Wright ran into Southeast Seminole Heights. McElderry followed. The trooper tried to shoot his suspect with pepper spray but the wind blew it back at McElderry.
As McElderry took out his .40-caliber gun, Wright grabbed it. He stood over McElderry and shot him.
McElderry spent two days at a hospital before going home to recuperate.
As it turned out, Wright was wanted on a warrant for not showing up in court on charges of failing to report as a sex offender. The confrontation with McElderry happened less than two years after his release from prison for two separate cases of violence against law officers in Hillsborough and for committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 16, prison records show.
Wright pleaded guilty to charges including carjacking, armed burglary of a dwelling, giving a false name to law enforcement, fleeing police, felon in possession of a firearm, depriving an officer of the means to protect himself, grand theft of a firearm, obstructing an officer with violence, battery on an officer and aggravated assault.
No one spoke on Wright's behalf at the sentencing, prosecutor Kim Seace said.