Jorge Robledo’s attorney, Kaz Long, repeatedly spoke during Thursday’s sentencing about his client feeling bad and taking full responsibility for his actions relating to the June shooting of Columbus Police Sgt. Bradley Wangler.
He prays, the defense attorney said, that one day the sergeant can forgive him for opening fire at a local home and striking him several times.
With a minimum 44-year sentence being levied by Platte County District Court Judge Robert Steinke, the now 25-year-old Grand Island man will have ample time to think about his actions. But one thing Wangler said he wants the father of two to know is that he’s not here to hold grudges.
“Obviously, God has a plan for both of us – myself and Robledo,” Wangler told The Telegram following court proceedings. “He made some comments about forgiveness, and ironically I have forgiven him a long time ago. God has a plan for him, and we hope that he turns into a model inmate and that he can turn his life around and become that inmate that can help correct others.
“Even from behind the fence he has a chance to influence on a positive aspect if he so chooses.”
A wave of support was shown toward Wangler and his wife, Nicole, inside of the courtroom. The well over a dozen attendees sitting in the right row of seats sported blue ribbons that were created – and sold – by Cub Scout Pack 115. There were also six officers lining the courtroom’s exit, and several others intertwined in the crowd.
“They got together, sold the ribbons at Hy-Vee and one of our good friends must have bought several of them and made sure that they had them on today,” Wangler said of his Scout group's efforts. “As my wife says, this community, whether it’s our immediate family, our friends in blue and brown or the community of Columbus as a whole, the support has been amazing and overwhelming and humbling.”
Prior to sentencing, Platte County Attorney Carl Hart Jr. spoke about why such a stiff penalty needed to be handed down. The defendant, he said, started using methamphetamine and other hard drugs when he was 15. That paved the way to him being sentenced to prison four times in Nebraska leading up to the most recent crime.
The most recent, high-violence act happened in June 2018 when Wangler and one other department officer responded to a local neighborhood in reference to the defendant having an active Hall County warrant. It was revealed in court Thursday that at the time of the shooting, Robledo was on post-release supervision in Hall County following another stretch in prison.
Using both a Luger handgun and assault rifle, Hart explained the circumstances of what was described as an ambush when Wangler approached the home’s door.
“The defendant inflicted real and serious danger,” Hart said, addressing Steinke. “He shot several times at Officer Wangler inside the residence with at least two rounds impacting Officer Wangler’s protective vest, in the chest area … Moreover, a fragment of the third round actually penetrated through Officer Wangler’s neck, impacting critical vascular tissue.
“If it weren’t for the protective vest, the timing and expert medical treatment, Officer Wangler may not have survived this shooting.”
If the Luger handgun hadn’t jammed, which ultimately led to the defendant switching to an assault rifle, it was noted that there’s a high level of confidence that the other responding officer could have been impacted with rounds.
Hart implored Steinke to run the two charges of a prohibited person being in possession of a deadly weapon second offense, consecutively – stacked on top of one another. Per state law, Robledo being convicted of using a deadly weapon to commit a felony, a Class IC felony, must be run consecutively.
Robledo was also convicted of first-degree assault of an officer, a Class ID felony, and being in possession of a Schedule 2 exceptionally hazardous substance with intent to distribute – methamphetamine in the amount of 140 grams or more, a Class IB felony.
Long, arguing on behalf of his defendant, noted that Robledo doesn’t have a strong educational background, got heavily involved with meth and other hard drugs at a young age and was around an alcoholic stepfather growing up.
“This is another case, and this court has seen many, where meth and cocaine are ruining someone’s life,” Long said.
Perhaps, more than anything, the defense was reliant on presenting the case that Robledo was sorry for what had happened, acknowledged his wrongdoing and was willing to pay the price for his drug-induced violent outburst.
“(He faced numerous serious charges) but, as the court knows, he plead to several of those charges,” Long said. “Why did he do that? I believe, in part, it’s because he’s very sorry and hopes that Mr. Wangler can forgive him someday.”
The defense asked the court to run any charges eligible to be concurrent, as such.
Steinke, following a brief speech, ran the two charges of the defendant being in possession of a deadly weapon, along with being in possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, concurrently. Charges of first-degree assault of an officer and using a deadly weapon to commit a felony are both being run consecutively to the concurrent sentences.
Robledo was credited with 238 days served in jail, which are put toward his 44-year minimum sentence.
With this chapter of their lives closing, the Wanglers are ready to keep moving forward in the right direction. The community’s backing has meant a lot, Nicole said.
“I think we’ve been through this, and we’ve had a very strong support system and we are very thankful for that,” she said.
Brad Wangler noted that with Robledo heading to prison and the case closed, it also provides some closure for the community as a whole, which has been so invested in a desirable outcome in the wake of such a mess.
“Today is what we looked forward to - to finding the closure,” Wangler said. “To find some finality. And I don’t think it’s just closure for us, it’s closure for the whole community, the Columbus Police Department, for the other officers involved that day. Knowing that the judge has imposed an appropriate sentence and that Jorge, as the judge put it, is no longer a risk to society."
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.