A Casper man who fired a gun toward Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers during a high-speed chase this spring is headed to prison.
Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking sentenced Zachery Whiteman on Tuesday morning to five to seven years in prison for two felonies.
When given the opportunity to speak, Whiteman asked the judge for leniency so he could treat PTSD he developed while deployed to Iraq with the Army. Whiteman said he regretted his actions and would accept any sentence Wilking deemed appropriate.
“I was trained to help the people of this country, not put them in danger,” Whiteman said. “I am ashamed and upset that I caused so much pain.”
Well before Whiteman spoke, a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper read a prepared statement to the court. Directing his comments toward Whiteman, Trooper Adam Bruning, who led the April pursuit, said God’s grace had saved his life.
Bruning said he has been seeing a psychologist to help him process the night, but it still has an effect on him.
The trooper closed him comments by quoting Colossians 3:13, a bible verse that calls for forgiveness.
Prosecutor Dan Itzen then spoke, saying that if Whiteman had pulled over after running a red light, he would have gotten off with a traffic ticket. Instead, Itzen said, Whiteman put lives at risk.
He asked the judge to sentence Whiteman to five to seven years imprisonment.
Defense attorney Jakob Norman began his statement by saying Whiteman had overcome a childhood marked by poverty by joining the Army. Whiteman was deployed three times, Norman said, but came back suffering from PTSD and did not seek help.
Norman said Whiteman suffered a “triggering event” the night of the chase which made him dissociate. Whiteman was then unable to differentiate between civilian life and his experience in Iraq, Norman said.
Sentencing Whiteman to probation in lieu of prison time would not amount to a “hall pass,” Norman argued, citing the nearly five months he had already spent in jail and a broken back incurred when a trooper rammed his car off the road at the tail end of the chase.
Norman then read from letters provided by Whiteman’s family, friends, former coworkers and mental health professionals, before Whiteman made his statement.
When Wilking handed down the sentence, she said the case was “extremely difficult.” She said she could not understand Whiteman’s experience in combat, but she cited his prior criminal history, risk to the public and harm done to the state trooper in deciding to sentence him to prison.
Wilking also ordered Whiteman to pay the Wyoming Department of Transportation $4,202.70 in restitution before he was led out of the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies.