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Striking officer with car nets man 20 years
Jonathan Jonte Blackwell

A judge sentenced a Gainesville man to 20 years in prison this week for striking an undercover Gainesville police officer with his car, a familiar episode for local drug agents.

Jonathan Jonte Blackwell, 29, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer Monday and was sentenced by Hall County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Chessher Oliver to 35 years, with the first 20 years in prison and the remainder on probation, District Attorney Lee Darragh said.

It was at least the fifth time in recent years that a man has been sentenced in a Hall County courtroom for assaulting an officer with a car.

On Feb. 26, 2009, police tried to pull over Blackwell’s 1985 Chevrolet Caprice at the Pine Cove apartments on Pine Grove Circle.

Blackwell responded by speeding away. Two undercover officers with the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad, Christopher Letson and West Mills, got out of their cars and ordered Blackwell to stop.

Darragh said Blackwell drove toward Mills, then changed direction and ran his car into Letson, sending the drug agent over the top of the hood before he fell off to the side. Letson fired a shot from his gun, which lodged in the engine of Blackwell’s car. Letson was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center with superficial injuries and was treated and later released.

Blackwell led police on a chase on Browns Bridge Road and onto Skelton Road. When he was blocked in by police cars at Skelton Road at Gaines Drive, Blackwell “continued to ram vehicles that were blocking him in an effort to get away,” Darragh said.

Darragh said a former resident of the apartments was prepared to testify that Blackwell intentionally aimed his car at the officer.

“It was obvious to him that he deliberately intended to strike the officer,” Darragh said.

Blackwell also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, using a cell phone in a drug transaction, obstruction, reckless driving and fleeing/attempting to elude.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson.

Darragh said before imposing sentence, the judge commented on the repeated instances of people using their cars as weapons.

Dennis J. Young was sentenced to eight years in prison for nearly striking a deputy with his car during a February 2005 traffic stop on Ga. 60. Emmanuel Goss received four years in prison for trying to run down two undercover drug agents at Wilshire Park in September 2005. In March 2006, Desmond D. Jones rammed a drug agent’s car and drove at another deputy on Old Athens Road near Floyd Road.

Chanju Dryden was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of striking and seriously injuring a drug agent during a January 2006 sting at a convenience store parking lot on E.E. Butler Parkway. Dryden’s conviction was later overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court. The case is pending a retrial.

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