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Gang member sentenced to 20+ years in shooting of law enforcement officer

Joseph Dale Sonnier was sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison after shooting a task...
Joseph Dale Sonnier was sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison after shooting a task force member last year during an arrest attempt.(MDOC)
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:07 AM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A member of the Simon City Royals will spend the next 21 years in federal prison after shooting an officer in the neck last year during an arrest attempt.

Joseph Dale Sonnier of Hancock County was sentenced to 257 months this week after pleading guilty earlier this year to four counts of assaulting and resisting officers, and one count of discharging a firearm.

He was originally facing nine counts in connection to the shooting, which happened on July 21, 2020, when U.S. marshals and law enforcement officers were attempting to arrest him at the Siegel Select, an extended stay hotel in Gautier.

The day of the shooting, agents attempted to knock on the door of Sonnier’s room to arrest him in connection to multiple warrants he had from charges stemming back to 2019, which included kidnapping, aggravated assault, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm by a felon. Sonnier bonded out of jail on those charges in May 2020 and, according to an affidavit filed last year, told authorities that he “basically had been on the run ever since.”

When agents attempted to knock on his hotel room door two months later, Sonnier admitted in the affidavit that he knew they were there and would not come out. Sonnier said he then asked the marshals if he could smoke a cigarette but they continued to tell him to come out with his hands up. At that time, Sonnier admitted to firing two rounds from a High-Point .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol at the four agents outside, said the affidavit.

READ MORE: ‘I didn’t mean to hurt that man’: Suspect admits to shooting U.S. marshal in Gautier, says affidavit

One of the rounds struck a marshal in the neck. The remaining agents returned fire, said the affidavit.

The bullet grazed the neck of the agent, who is a Harrison County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the marshals task force, missing any vital veins or arteries, said Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson in the days after the shooting. The agent has since recovered.

According to the affidavit, Sonnier said he was trying to commit suicide and hoped the officers would kill him.

In court last year, the judge said Sonnier has an extensive criminal history that goes back to 2010 and includes resisting arrest and multiple burglary charges. He pleaded guilty to three of the burglary charges and was sentenced to 20 years. However, he was released early.

READ MORE: Man accused of shooting agent has long arrest record, claims to have PTSD, anger issues

The pre-trial report filed last fall revealed that Sonnier reported having anger issues and PTSD after being stabbed in prison in 2015. Sonnier filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Department of Corrections following that stabbing but it was dismissed by the court.

According to a federal agent who testified in a hearing last year following the arrest, Sonnier told authorities he was an active member of the Simon City Royals for 10 years and declined to take a drug test, telling investigators that he would test positive for methamphetamines, heroine, valium, and marijuana.

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