PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) - A judge has sentenced the Connecticut man who shot at a Louisiana State Police Trooper during a traffic stop in West Baton Rouge to 28 years in prison.
William Belniak pleaded guilty and apologized repeatedly in court on Monday but prosecutors said it was not enough.
The mass chaos that unfolded on the streets of Port Allen two years ago is still very fresh for Louisiana State Trooper Kevin Biddy. What began as a routine traffic stop on a suspected drunk driver turned into a night of terror for the officer and his family.
Authorities said Belniak was pulled over on LA 1 near Avenue G in Port Allen, right off I-10, around 2:30 a.m. They added the two "scuffled" when the trooper tried to arrest Belniak on suspicion of DWI. During the fight, the trooper called for backup over the radio before the suspect got away from him and grabbed a gun from the car.
Biddy was able to catch up to him and they fought some more. Investigators said as they were struggling over the gun, Belniak fired a shot, which grazed the trooper's head. The trooper then fell to the ground. Deputies from the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene just as this happened and shot the suspect twice. Officials said he was hit in the side.
According to Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police, the deputies drove up to find the suspect standing over the trooper with a gun pointed at him.
"These deputies were here within a matter of minutes," Edmonson said. "They were able to discharge their weapons, looks like at least four to six times, striking the suspect at least twice."
Sheriff Mike Cazes said two of his deputies were involved in the shooting. He said one deputy jumped out of the car and fired at the suspect, while the driver put the car in park and actually shot at the suspect through the windshield of his own squad car. Cazes said he spoke with the deputies and they told him they just reacted to the situation.
Trooper Biddy's wife, Nicole, remembers getting a knock at the door from authorities reporting her husband had been shot in the head. Belniak, who was 20 years old at the time, pulled the trigger. Trooper Biddy recovered from his injuries but the emotional scars are still fresh.
"Sometimes I call him when he's working to tell him something and every minute that goes by it makes me more scared and finally he calls me and I can breathe again," Nicole Biddy said.
Belniak pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Prosecutor Tony Clayton said Belniak got off easy.
"He's had opportunities. He's had breaks before. He had it on his mind to kill a cop and he came here with that intention. So 50 years, the max, is what he should have gotten," Clayton said.
In court, Belniak apologized to the Biddy's, law enforcement and the community. The judge granted his father, Robert Belniak, a few moments with his son before taking him to prison.
"He said he loved me and thanked me for my support. He was happy that he had a second chance," Robert Belniak said.
The Biddys said they are pleased with the judge's decision. Nicole believes it's enough time for Belinak to learn his lesson.
"I never wish ill will on him, and I hope no one does. It's easy to hate but it's really hard to love," Biddy said.
She said it's a concept she's come to appreciate and one she says she recalls every time she tells her husband goodbye.
The judge did not give Belniak the benefit of probation or parole.
Belniak will serve his time in West Baton Rouge Detention Center.