Miracle deputy sees his assailant sentenced - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Miracle deputy sees his assailant sentenced

September 20, 2006

Cordele -- A man who shot and bruatally beat a Crisp County deputy, on video tape, was sentenced today to 63 years in prison.

The victim, Deputy Steven Rankin, wants us to share it with you so you can see for yourself the dangers law enforcers face as they protect us.  

The dashcam video shows Ben Westbrook III shooting Deputy Steven Rankin in the face, then pistol whipping him and trying to shoot him again. When his gun jams, he goes for Rankin's gun.

The attack happened in February during a traffic stop on Raines Station Road in Crisp County. The video was released today during Westbrook's sentencing hearing. He said he was sorry and asked for mercy.

District Attorney Denise Facini isn't buying it. She said Westbrook was only sorry for himself and that he fully intended to kill Rankin. "That's not a mistake. That's a murderer who just didn't complete his act."  

Westbrook pleaded guilty to all charges. The judge gave him the maximum sentence-- 63 years to serve in prison.  

Deputy Steven Rankin, who still can't watch the dash-board video of this horrendous crime, asked us to show it to you so you can get a better idea of what law enforcers are up against every day and night. Nights Deputy Rankin can no longer sleep through, thanks to the nightmares that still haunt him.

The disturbing images in this video may haunt you as well, so watch at your own discretion. "I just hope that this video helps let people know what we go through just to keep everybody in good sleep, keep them safe, and other officers know that this is Cordele, this is small town Cordele, and it will happen if we don't protect ourselves and protect everybody else and try and keep these people away," Rankin said.  

"Turn your radio down." That's what Deputy Steven Rankin planned to say as he approached Ben Westbrook's car. But he never gets that chance. He's shot in the face, and that's just the beginning.

Westbrook will try and shoot Rankin again. Fortunately the gun jams, but he'll still use it to pistol whip the deputy. He then punches and kicks him. Then he'll give the trigger another squeeze, as Rankin tries to call for help. "He tried to kill me numerous times our there. Somebody who stands over you and steadily tries to fire a weapon, hits you out of frustration, simply because he cannot fire a weapon, then tries to get my weapon, because he knows mine will work. That proves that he just was not able to finish what he started."

Once again, no luck, so now he goes for Rankin's service weapon. The deputy fights, and as the will to survive takes over, he's able to run free of Westbrook. Rankin unloads the magazine in his gun, shooting out the back window of Westbrook's car. Then he calls out for help. "I've been shot. Raines Station Road, quarter mile South of 300. They shot me, shot in my head."

From the responding officer's dash camera, you can see Deputy Rankin's lights in the distance. As the car approaches, now deputy Rankin is clearly seen kneeling in the middle of the road, waiting desperately for help to arrive. That help would come in the form of his good buddy and co-worker, Deputy Ben Bray, who was emotional at times during his testimony today.

Bray says, "I could tell he was on his knees. Blood was coming from his mouth. I got down there with him, and told him he was going to be okay. The main part, I just reassured him that everything was going to be okay," says Bray.

The quick response from his fellow officers, insured that Deputy Rankin would in fact be okay and would have the support he needed, when returning to work.  

Deputy Rankin still has a long way to go toward recovery. He has several more surgeries on his mouth and must see psychologists and psychiatrists to help him recover from the trauma.

As difficult as this story is to see and hear, it is even more difficult for Rankin, who everyday struggles to keep these images from popping into his mind. "It's a shame that we can't convict him of murder because he tried to murder me. "He deserves more than 63 years, but if that's all we can give him, then I'm glad that that's what he got."

"Now that I know that he's off the street, he will not be back for a long time, if he makes it back, I have closure now. And now I can start working on myself and get me back where I need to be."

Does he think maybe tonight, for the first time in a long time you're going to be able to sleep? "I think so. I think this is a start for me, to be able to move on, basically close this chapter and to me it's closed now, and start new."  

Sheriff Donnie Haralson says Rankin can go his own pace in recovering and getting back to full duties at work. He believes that's the least the community can offer Rankin for his service to them. Rankin says throughout the entire ordeal, he has only been more assured that being in law enforcement is what he is destined to do... he's even considered joining the national guard.

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