Roderick D. Jordan said he didn't know that the man ordering him to drop the gun was a Fairfax County police officer. And, Jordan testified, he wasn't trying to hit the officer in the ensuing gun battle along Columbia Pike during rush hour; he just wanted to scare him.
A Fairfax Circuit Court jury didn't buy Jordan's explanation, particularly after watching stop-action video of the shootout captured by a surveillance camera across the street. The jury sentenced Jordan, 35, of the District, to life in prison yesterday after convicting him Wednesday evening of attempted capital murder on a police officer.
During the sentencing phase of the trial, the jury learned that Jordan was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder in Norfolk in 1993 and also of robbing two banks in Northern Virginia. State law prevented prosecutors from telling the jury that Jordan was convicted in an execution-style triple slaying in Norfolk and that his case was plea-bargained down from capital murder to second-degree murder.
Jordan received concurrent 101/2-year sentences for the murders and the robberies and was released from prison in December 2003.
After his release, Jordan testified Wednesday, he worked as a landscaper at a cemetery and for a scaffolding company. But "I got myself in a financial bind from a habit that I had," Jordan said without elaborating. "I needed to pay some money back, that's all."
On Jan. 14 this year, Jordan, wielding a .40-caliber pistol, approached the Ace Cash Express store in Baileys Crossroads shortly before it was to open at 9 a.m. and forced the manager, Ligia M. Hernandez, inside. Hernandez testified that as she walked inside with Jordan, she left one of the doors open, for either her rescuers or her escape. "I was already thinking that I was dead," Hernandez said.
After Jordan demanded cash, Hernandez entered an incorrect code on the store's safe, knowing it would send an alert. Soon Officer Lance T. Guckenberger arrived.
Hernandez told Jordan that she would convince Guckenberger that everything was fine but that Jordan should hide in a bathroom. Jordan agreed. Hernandez then ran screaming, but she slipped and fell. Guckenberger, who was wearing a jacket over his police uniform, dragged her toward his unmarked police car.
Jordan walked out with his gun drawn. Guckenberger said he repeatedly yelled, "Police! Drop your weapon!" Jordan ducked behind Hernandez's car, and he and Guckenberger started exchanging rounds as the rush-hour traffic whizzed by.
Across the street, a security officer at the Missile Defense Agency was alerted to the shootout and aimed a camera at the scene. The camera snapped a photo every second, capturing Jordan bobbing and firing behind Hernandez's Toyota Matrix while Guckenberger stood and tried to fire through the car's windows. The Matrix's windows were slanted, and Guckenberger's bullets glanced away.
Tests showed that seven of Jordan's eight shots hit the car he was using as a shield and the eighth hit a tire shop up the block. When his gun was empty, Jordan tried to walk away, and Guckenberger, a former Marine sniper, shot him in the leg.
As the trial was about to begin Monday, Jordan pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and use of a firearm in a felony. He pleaded not guilty to attempted capital murder. His attorneys argued, and Jordan testified, that he wasn't trying to kill Guckenberger and was guilty only of assault on a police officer.