Man Sentenced to More Than 31 Years

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The wife of James Feltis, the first Pentagon police officer killed in the line of duty in the agency's 62-year history, lashed out in court yesterday at the man who ran her husband over with a car that he said he stole because he "just needed a car."

"How infuriating to hear such statements, to willfully take James's life," Mary E. Feltis told the judge. "To injure him because James was in his way, because he needed a car, to injure or kill another person for reasons so unthinkable."

U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema sentenced Ossie K. LaRode, 23, who is homeless, to 31 years and 10 months in prison. In January 2005, LaRode, who was leading Alexandria police on a six-mile-long chase in a stolen Cadillac, hit Feltis, 41, outside a Pentagon traffic booth.

Brinkema rejected the defense's efforts to send LaRode, who pleaded guilty in July, to a prison hospital after two experts testified that he is mentally ill. Brinkema said that "there is no question that mental illness played a role in what happened" and LaRode can be treated in prison and ask to be transferred to a hospital if his mental state deteriorates.

"This case is, in one word, a tragedy, a tragedy for everybody," Brinkema said before sentencing LaRode. "Justice and retribution are appropriate at certain times, and that certainly is appropriate here. It was just by luck that there were not more serious injuries or deaths."

Mary Feltis told the court how her husband lingered in the hospital for five weeks, through countless surgeries and the amputation of his left leg. "He fought very hard [and] tried to stay with us," she said, sobbing and visibly shaking at times. "James suffered those five weeks."

The couple's 8-year-old daughter, who recently began playing soccer, drew a picture that was submitted to Brinkema in which the girl's father floated above her, as an angel with wings. It was inscribed "coach Papa."

Pentagon Police Chief Richard S. Keevill put his arm around Mary Feltis after she spoke, as more than 20 uniformed Pentagon police sat grim-faced, some blinking back tears. Pentagon police have said Feltis's death was hard on the agency, which managed to escape the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks without any fatalities, even as a hijacked jet plowed into the Pentagon.

The fatal sequence of events began, according to court documents, when LaRode carjacked a 2003 Cadillac Seville outside of an Alexandria restaurant Jan. 11, 2005. After the victim reported the carjacking, police pursued LaRode, and he led them to Interstate 395 near the Pentagon. LaRode turned the wrong way onto an exit ramp and sped toward the Pentagon's south parking lot. He continued to drive the wrong way along South Rotary Road and approached Feltis's security kiosk.

Feltis stepped into the Cadillac's path and signaled for LaRode to stop. Instead, LaRode plowed the car into Feltis, who died Feb. 14, 2005, at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He had never regained consciousness.

"He did not stop, he did not look back, he never braked, he never swerved," Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik R. Barnett told Brinkema, adding that LaRode grabbed a police officer's gun after his car was stopped and fired it three times, accidentally striking himself in the leg and groin.

LaRode pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

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