WESTMORELAND — Tears were shed Thursday afternoon in Pottawatomie County District court as Judge Jeffrey Elder sentenced Dustin Monroe to 18 months in prison for his role in a December shooting incident at the Manhattan Quality Inn and Suites.
The 34-year-old Wamego man in May pleaded no contest to two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied building. The incident occurred the morning of Dec. 10 in the parking lot of the hotel, 150 E. Poyntz Ave.
“I am ashamed of myself for the actions I took,” Monroe said in court as he read from a prepared statement.
Before Elder imposed the sentence, Monroe apologized and asked the judge not to send him to jail.
“My family needs me and I need them,” he said.
Monroe’s attorney, Lora Ingels, requested Elder sentence her client to 24 months of probation with an underlying prison sentence.
In an effort to sway the judge, Ingels called seven witnesses to testify on Thursday.
Jon Sward, a mental health counseling professional who evaluated Monroe, indicated Monroe’s actions that day were the culmination of mental health and drug abuse issues.
“I found that he was having issues with three substances, particularly methamphetamine, marijuana and alcohol,” Sward said.
According to Sward, Monroe had displayed indications of a “possible underlying cycling mood disorder,” specifically bipolar disorder.
“From the history, I could see that he had been using marijuana for years, in part, to self-medicate his cycling mood disorder,” Sward said.
The methamphetamine use, Monroe had told Sward, began about two months before the shooting.
“On the (morning) of his offense, he was having the classical psychosis that methamphetamine induces on people,” Sward said of Monroe.
Monroe was suffering from a delusion, Sward said, that the Mexican Mafia was after him. He believed the only way to get help was to attract police attention.
But when officers arrived on scene, “he thought they were part of the conspiracy,” Sward said.
Officers from several agencies responded to the hotel at about 6 a.m.
On scene, they found Monroe firing a shotgun into the air. They asked him to stop. He didn’t comply.
Hotel guests then began calling 911 to report that rounds were hitting the building. Officers also believed Monroe fired shots in their direction.
“Once we received information that he was firing into the Quality Inn, that was kind of the line in the sand,” Riley County Police Department Officer Robert Dierks said on Thursday.
Dierks, whom prosecutors called to the stand to testify, was one of the officers who returned fire.
Monroe was struck multiple times. Nobody else was injured.
Many of the witnesses who testified on Monroe’s behalf said he has since set out to pursue a straighter, more stable path.
“He wants to be a better person,” said Toni Monroe, Dustin’s former wife and the mother of their two kids.
“He wants to be a better father. He wants to be a better provider.”
Ingels asked Elder to sentence Monroe to probation because of what he’s done since December to improve his situation, including seeking counseling and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
“He’s doing all the right things,” she said.
Ingels argued that probation would allow Monroe to continue seeking rehabilitation for his mental health and drug use outside of prison.
“I don’t know that there is appropriate treatment for him in prison,” she said.
However, Pottawatomie County Attorney Sherri Schuck countered that Monroe has a history of violence connected to alcohol and has abused drugs in the past.
“He has had some episodes of aggressiveness,” Schuck said, citing a battery and domestic battery specifically. “They’ve all been tied to when he is under the influence.”
She argued that what transpired at the Quality Inn wasn’t different.
“Real people were put at risk because of his substance abuse issues,” Schuck said.
Both of Schuck’s points played roles in Elder’s decision, though the judge admitted it was a difficult case.
“I hope that you look at this as not the end, but the beginning, the beginning of a very productive life,” Elder told Monroe.