DANVILLE — The man accused of shooting a Danville police officer allegedly mistook the squad car for one belonging to a Hispanic street gang, according to court testimony Thursday.
Michael C. Rouse, 23, of Ridge Farm, faces one count of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer for the May 30 shooting of a Danville police sergeant in the 200 block of Kentucky Avenue.
On Thursday, Danville Police Officer Brian Lang took the stand during Rouse’s preliminary hearing and testified that Rouse admitted to shooting the officer. The officer was identified in court as Sgt. John Thompson, a 16-year city police veteran.
According to Lang, Thompson was on patrol along Kentucky Avenue when he spotted a man fitting the description of a suspect in an armed robbery days earlier. Thompson turned around and stopped as Rouse was crossing the street, intending to stop Rouse and speak with him.
Lang said Rouse, according to Thompson, turned around and began to approach the stopped squad car. Rouse fired as many as five shots at the car before fleeing on foot from the scene.
Thompson suffered two gunshot wounds to the left arm and another to his butt cheek. He was taken to the hospital immediately following the shooting and released the next day. Danville Director of Public Safety Larry Thomason said late Thursday afternoon that Thompson is “doing well” but remains on injury leave as a result of the shooting. He will soon be able to return, at most, to light duty, Thomason said.
Rouse was arrested May 31 following a three-hour standoff with police after he was spotted by an officer along Cannon Street. He ran into a home in the 2600 block of Cannon Street, but eventually surrendered without incident.
Lang said Rouse, during a taped interview with police, told officers he began firing at Thompson’s marked squad car because he thought it was a white vehicle belonging to members of the Latin Kings street gang. Rouse alleged he had a couple of run-ins with the members driving a white car in recent days.
In addition to driving a marked squad car, Thompson was wearing his police uniform at the time of the shooting.
Rouse told police he realized after firing a couple of shots that he was shooting at a police officer. Rouse told police during his interview that he continued firing three more times because he was afraid the officer would return fire and he would be killed in the exchange.
Thompson was able to return fire, according to Rouse. Lang testified Rouse heard the shots as he fled south, running to a friend’s house in the 200 block of South Griffin Street. He got rid of the gun he was using along the way. It was later recovered by police who were directed by Rouse to the location.
Rouse, who was represented by the Public Defender’s office, entered a not guilty plea on Thursday. In addition to the attempted first-degree murder charge, he faces one count of aggravated battery of a police officer using a firearm (Class X felony) and two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm at a police officer (Class X felony) and aggravated discharge of a firearm (Class 1 felony).
Rouse remains in custody in the Public Safety Building jail with bond set at $5 million. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison for the Class X felonies.
Also in court on Thursday, Danville Police Officer Danielle Lewellen testified that Rouse also admitted to committing an armed robbery on May 28 at Dollar General, 1228 E. Main St. The officer testified that Rouse, while armed with a black handgun, made off with $103 from the store.
In that case he also faces a Class X felony.
Rouse is next scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 4.