A Davenport man will spend decades behind bars for shooting a Davenport police officer and robbing a business in April 2019.
On Friday, 29 year old Brett Dennis Sr. was sentenced to up to 35 years in prison for his crimes. Dennis will have to serve 24.5 years of the sentence before he is eligible for parole or work release.
“Mr. Dennis, I find you to be one of the few people that have sat in front of me that I truly just believe are a dangerous individual and that today has shown no desire to change or improve,” Judge Thomas Reidel said during a more than 30 minute hearing in Scott County District Court. “I hope that the time you spend in the Department of Corrections will change that, will give you an opportunity of maturation and human growth.”
Dennis apologized to Officer Ryan Leabo, who sat in the front row in the courtroom gallery. “My intention was not to hurt you, and I’m sorry that I did,” the 29-year-old said, a beige mask covering his mouth. “I’m sorry for the recovery issues that you’ve had. Hopefully, you are allowed to make a full recovery. My blessings go out to you and your family.”
In august, Dennis pleaded guilty to attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. In a separate case, he also pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery.
Just before 4:30 that afternoon of April 25, 2019, Officer Leabo made contact with Dennis, and 29 year old Nathaniel Osman Viering, who police say were acting suspiciously in the area of West 17th and Sturdevant streets
Leabo is a member of the police department’s NETS (Neighborhoods Energized to Succeed) unit, which uses community policing techniques and concentrates enforcement in troubled neighborhoods. He said during the sentencing hearing that NETS officers had been spending time in the Washington Street neighborhood due to an increase in violent crime in the area.
He told the two men to stop several times, but they refused. Viering was taken into custody nearby, while Dennis ran. Leabo caught up to him, and the two had a physical struggle in a yard in the 1600 block of West 17th Street.
Dennis fired two shots; one hit Leabo in the leg and the second struck him in the chest of his bulletproof vest. Leabo fired at Dennis, hitting him in the leg. After the shooting, Dennis ran away, according to police.
He was arrested a short time later. Prosecutors said Dennis told police in an interview that he was trying to get the officer to shoot him, and that Leabo’s use of force that day was reasonable and justified.
“In the end, no one lost their life as a result of this incident, which to my absolute core I believe is the very best way this final encounter could have ended,” Leabo said during Dennis' sentencing hearing Friday. "Luckily my body armor stopped the bullet which struck my chest. Without the body armor…quite likely, I would be dead.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Dennis had gone into Smokin' Joe’s, 1606 W. Locust St., approached a clerk, pulled a gun out of his sweatshirt pocket, and demanded all the money from the register. The clerk, who prosecutors said was a relative of Dennis', refused to give him money and he left the store.
Leabo said Friday that based on his mannerisms and actions his supervisor observed that day, “I have no doubt in my mind Mr. Dennis was looking for another person and or a business to rob.”
“Without police intervention, it is entirely possible an innocent citizen could have been at the other end of Mr. Dennis’s firearm,” he said. “That being said, I am happy it was me who intervened. It was my job. It is what I chose to do on a daily basis. And I would do it again If it means a citizen of Davenport did not have to be robbed or shot by Mr. Dennis.”
Leabo said the bullet that struck his leg traveled down and lodged in his heel, breaking his ankle in the process. It took him one surgery and six months of intensive physical therapy to be able to get back to full duty. "As a result of Mr. Dennis’s actions, I and my family and my department and our city have suffered physical and emotional injuries, which I will wrestle with, and we will wrestle with for the rest of our lives.
“Mr. Dennis acted in complete disregard for the safety and well-being of the citizens of Davenport on April 24, and April 25, 2019. The violence in our community is not trending in the right direction. I’m a strong believer, one of the functions of our criminal justice system is deterrence. For punishment to deter other people from committing crime, the punishment must be efficiently swift, certain, and severe.”
Dennis and his attorneys, Miguel Puentes and Barbara Maness, asked Reidel to consider running the sentenced concurrently, or at the same time, for a total of up to 25 years in prison, of which he would have to serve a minimum of 17.5 years before he is eligible for parole. Puentes argued that 17.5 years is sufficient time for rehabilitation and punishment.
Maness said Dennis not only has taken responsibility for his actions but has made goals for his future when he is released from prison. She also said he has taken part in multiple programs through the Scott County Jail.
Dennis will receive credit for time already served in jail.