A Lawrence man pleaded no contest Wednesday to confronting police with an assault rifle and smashing the windows out of a car at a Lawrence pool hall, among other crimes.
The man, Jesse Lamont McDonald, 33, was originally charged in Douglas County District Court with one felony count of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a Norinco SKS 762×39 caliber rifle, one felony count of criminal use of a weapon, one felony count of fleeing from an officer, one felony count of criminal damage to a 2012 black Mercedes Benz, one misdemeanor count of carrying a bludgeoning weapon, one misdemeanor count of stalking and one misdemeanor count of violation of a protection order, according to charging documents. McDonald was also charged with three additional misdemeanor counts of violating a protection order earlier in 2022.
As part of a plea agreement, McDonald pleaded no contest to one felony count of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, one felony count of criminal damage to a vehicle, one misdemeanor count of violation of a protection order and one misdemeanor count of having brass knuckles in his possession. The remaining charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement negotiated by his defense attorney, Adam Zentner.
The charges relate to an incident on Nov. 10, 2022, at Astro’s Billiards and Bar, 601 Kasold Drive, as the Journal-World previously reported. Police said at the time that officers responded to the bar around 11:35 p.m. to a report of criminal damage.
According to a police affidavit in support of McDonald’s arrest, a woman called police to report that McDonald had threatened her earlier that day by phone and that McDonald was now in the parking lot of Astro’s ramming into her black Mercedes Benz with a car and smashing her car’s windows.
She said that McDonald told her “I would hate to burn your house down,” that he would “slap the fire out of her” and that he was armed with a “762,” which she believed was referring to an “AK style rifle.” The woman said she had previously been in a relationship with McDonald but had broken up with him and had filed a protection order against him, which she said he had violated multiple times.
When officers arrived at the bar, McDonald was gone. While officers were examining the smashed car, they observed McDonald arrive in a silver Honda that had damage consistent with a collision. McDonald parked at Westlake Ace Hardware, which shares a parking lot with Astro’s, and McDonald got out of his vehicle and began to get something out of his backseat, according to the affidavit.
Officers surrounded McDonald’s vehicle and began ordering McDonald to “show us your hands” when one officer saw McDonald stand up with an “AK style rifle.” The officer heard McDonald chambering ammunition in the gun while the barrel was pointed inside the car, and the officer thought McDonald was going to fire, according to the affidavit. The officer yelled at McDonald again to “show me your hands,” then McDonald put the rifle back in the front passenger seat of the car, jumped back in the driver’s seat and sped away, nearly striking another officer’s patrol vehicle as he left.
McDonald was pursued by officers before pulling over in the parking lot of QuikTrip, 900 Iowa St., where he surrendered to police without further incident. Police found a Norinco SKS 762×39 caliber rifle, a hammer and brass knuckles in his vehicle, according to the affidavit.
Police later interviewed McDonald, who waived his Miranda rights, according to the affidavit, and he said that he did threaten the woman earlier that day and that he smashed the windows of her car. McDonald told police he fled the scene because he believed he would be shot by police and that he wanted to get to a well-lit area with cameras before surrendering. McDonald said the gun belonged to a friend, and he denied in that interview that he ever touched the rifle.
McDonald was booked into the Douglas County Jail that night, and he has been held on a $100,000 bond ever since.
During his plea hearing on Wednesday he asked for a bond reduction since he was “taking responsibility for his actions,” which Judge Amy Hanley denied. Hanley said that until the court could determine McDonald’s criminal record, she didn’t know if he could be facing time in prison or if he would qualify for probation.
“Right now, you’re going to remain in custody,” Hanley said.
Hanley said that because McDonald’s crime involved threatening someone with a firearm, he would be required to register as a violent offender for 15 years, and if he is sentenced to prison he could face more than five years, depending on his criminal history.
Hanley asked McDonald if he understood what he was agreeing to by entering a plea and whether he was on any kind of drugs or alcohol. McDonald said he understood for the most part but that he was not clear on all of the rights and procedures he was giving up, but that he was confident in entering his plea after being advised by Zentner.
McDonald said that he was not under the influence of illegal drugs but that he was taking medication for depression and for “the voices he hears” in his head and that the medication helped some.
McDonald is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9.