A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld the conviction of a self-proclaimed Nigerian prince for a gunbattle that seriously wounded a police officer at a Hawthorne self-storage facility nearly three years ago.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the trial court had erred in failing to suppress Nonyere Gregory Ofoegbu’s statements to Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives while he was hospitalized for two gunshot wounds following the Nov. 19, 2016, gunfight at the Public Storage facility.
Police were summoned to the storage facility after the manager informed Ofoegbu that he could not be inside his storage unit with the door closed and he responded that she couldn’t tell him what to do, according to the appellate court panel’s 19-page ruling.
The defendant told responding officers that he was a prince from Nigeria and demanded that they leave him alone, grabbed a large, sheathed machete and tried to remove the weapon from the sheath before running to his storage unit and partially closing the door, the justices noted.
A shot was subsequently fired in the direction of the officers and Ofoegbu continuously fired his gun at the officers, who ran down the hallway and took cover after the gunfire briefly stopped, according to the ruling.
The defendant — a licensed security guard — subsequently appeared in the hallway and began shooting again at the officers, who returned fire, and he was subsequently arrested by another Hawthorne police officer after he rode an elevator down to the first-floor lobby, according to the opinion.
Hawthorne police Officer Lawrence Williams was shot in the right leg during the gunfight and had not been able to return to work by the time of Ofoegbu’s trial, while Sgt. Joel Romero suffered a laceration on his right elbow that required stitches — an injury he believed was caused by bullet shrapnel.
Ofoegbu was convicted of one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter and two counts each of assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm and assault with a semiautomatic firearm on the facility’s manager and a customer. He was sentenced last year to 46 years to life in state prison.