Hitchhiker sentenced in June shootout Canadian who shot at police on U.S. 50 gets 8-year term.


ANNAPOLIS -- A hitchhiking Canadian fugitive has been sentenced to eight years in prison for a shootout with two state troopers along U.S. 50 last June that led to a 41-hour police manhunt.

"The facts here are just absolutely outrageous. We're lucky no one was killed," Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. said yesterday before sentencing Pvt. Eric W. Schumacher, 21, one of two absent-without-leave Canadian soldiers charged in the shootout.

But, noting that Schumacher had admitted his guilt and had no prior criminal record, the judge agreed to sentence within non-binding guidelines that required a term of five to eight years.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee had argued for a harsher sentence because Schumacher shot at police officers. "To me, it shows a complete and utter disregard for authority and an intent to destroy that authority for no reason," the prosecutor said.

Schumacher's co-defendant, Pvt. Donald R. Nelson, 20, was to be tried today. Public Defender Alan R. Friedman said he would consider Schumacher's sentence in advising Private Nelson about a plea bargain.

Both men also face charges in the shooting of a Toronto police officer six days before the June 6 incident near Davidsonville.

Schumacher was described yesterday as having a compulsive personality that made him suitable for a military career but "doesn't permit him to change mental gears rapidly" and leaves him vulnerable to the effects of stress.

Psychologist David L. Shapiro and psychiatrist Ellen McDaniel said Schumacher and Private Nelson went AWOL because they had been involved in a fight in their Army barracks and were afraid their opponents were going to come after them with baseball bats.

Defense attorney Timothy D. Murnane said Schumacher, ever the military man, had reacted to clumsy attempts to arrest him by "pepper-potting" -- shooting into the air to temporarily freeze the troopers -- before fleeing.

Murnane said his client was the last person to fire in the shootout.

Schumacher wiped tears from his eyes after members of his family stood to show their support. In a shaky voice, he told the judge, "I wish this never happened, but unfortunately it did. I just have to go on with my life."

Schumacher, who pleaded guilty in November, received concurrent eight-year sentences for assault with intent murder and a handgun violation. The handgun conviction requires him to serve at least five years with no chance for parole.

After the hearing, Trooper Kimberly Bowman, 23, who was not injured in the shootout although her leather handcuff case caught a bullet, fought back tears and said she was unhappy with the sentence.

"I don't think a person should get extra points because they didn't kill someone," she said. "It's not that I want extra favors because I'm a police officer."

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