An Arizona man who started a ferocious gun battle with police on a North Idaho freeway overpass last year will spend at least 20 years in prison and up to 45 years for endangering the lives of officers from four agencies.
Marcus Anthony Rael, 25, was sentenced Tuesday to a 20-year fixed prison term plus a 25-year indeterminate term for 10 counts of aggravated assault.
“You were given several opportunities to give yourself up. You didn’t do so,” 1st District Judge Fred Gibler told Rael before imposing the sentence.
In a long, rambling statement to the judge, Rael spoke of his difficult physical recovery from being shot by police in the back, arm and leg; his troubled childhood filled with violence and drug abuse; his Bible studies in jail while awaiting sentencing; and his belief that he survived the June 22, 2014, shootout due to “divine intervention.”
Rael also turned to face the officers he shot at nearly 60 times with an AK-47 and two other weapons after he had fled a routine traffic stop in Coeur d’Alene and stopped on Interstate 90 in Post Falls.
“You guys did nothing to deserve this,” Rael told them. “I failed and I deserve to be dead.”
He also thanked the officers who gave him medical aid as he bled from bullet wounds. “You guys are truly heroes. You saved my life when you didn’t have to,” he said.
Kootenai County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dave Robins recommended a 65-year sentence with 25 years fixed.
“That is the sentence that society expects for an individual who single-handedly transforms the peaceful community of Post Falls into a war zone reminiscent of Iraq and Afghanistan,” Robins said.
Rael barricaded himself behind his pickup truck and a concrete barrier and shot military-grade weapons at officers, he told the judge. One round struck the top of a patrol car just inches from a Coeur d’Alene officer’s head, he said.
“I ask this court to be mindful of the terror the officers suffered that day,” Robins said.
Rael was not trying to harm anyone, his brother told the judge earlier in the daylong hearing.
“I believe he intended to be killed,” Kevin Rael testified.
He also said he and Marcus, who bought and sold firearms at gun shows, used to shoot at targets in the desert, and that Marcus always hit his target.
Marcus Rael reacted the way he did because he was afraid of the police and despondent over the death of a brother, who had been killed by police in Arizona three months earlier, said his attorney, Sean Walsh.
“This was Marcus wanting to end his life,” said Walsh, who asked the judge to impose a 10-year sentence with five years fixed.
Robins disputed that Rael was suicidal. He took cover from the police and then asked for aid after he’d been shot, he said. Also, Rael could have shot and killed himself but didn’t, Robins added.
Some of the 12 officers who shot back at Rael told Gibler they feared for their lives and those of their fellow officers. They said the 75-second shootout affected them professionally and personally and serves as a vivid reminder for them and their loved ones that they can be killed on the job.
“While it was unfolding, it was surreal,” Coeur d’Alene police Officer Gus Wessel said. He said he experienced “fear and stress” from the exchange of gunfire in the darkness of that early morning.
“There was no doubt in my mind that my life and my friends’ lives were in danger that night,” added Sgt. Jason Mealer of the Post Falls Police Department.
Coeur d’Alene police Detective Dustin Taylor, who has served in combat, said the exchange reminded him of his first deployment to Iraq.
“A lot of bullets, that was the biggest thing. A lot of gunfire. And that noise never leaves your mind,” Taylor told the judge.
Rael, who had moved to North Idaho from Glendale, Arizona, initiated the firefight following a police pursuit on I-90 that ended at the Spokane Street exit in Post Falls. No officers were wounded. Rael was shot several times and hospitalized in a coma for days before he recovered enough to be lodged in jail.
In a plea deal earlier this year, Rael entered Alford pleas in which he admitted no guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.
Rael’s mother Donna as well as his sister and three of his brothers sat in court Tuesday. Donna Rael said Marcus had been devastated by the death of his brother, Andrew J. Rael, in a police shootout just three months before the Post Falls shootout. Andrew Rael was suspected of killing a tow truck driver and a convenience store clerk before he opened fire on police with an assault rifle on March 10, 2014, in Tempe, Arizona. Two officers and an armed security guard returned fire, killing him.
During his police pursuit on I-90, Marcus Rael called his mom and said he was running because “I didn’t want to get beat up again,” Donna Rael testified, referring to a run-in her son had with police in Colorado.
Now, she said, Marcus is “back to his old self. He cares. He’s back to praying, trusting in God. He’s got a very positive attitude.”
Since his arrest almost 17 months ago, Marcus Rael has been a model inmate who is respectful and quiet, according to Kootenai County Jail deputies who also testified Tuesday.
“He’s not the monster that one would think he was out on the street,” Deputy Kory Martinelli said in court.
Rael also has expressed interest in knowing God and has been a positive influence on other inmates, said Dick Fuller, a jail chaplain who has met with Rael.
“Whoever he was that night, he’s not the same person,” Fuller said.
“This guy has had a real change of heart. I trust him,” he said.
Officers who exchanged fire with Rael were with the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls police departments, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office and the Idaho State Police.
Several said they saw rounds strike near them and heard rounds whizzing by. Rael’s weapons included an FN 5.7 carbine rifle with 50-round magazine and an AK-47 with a pistol grip and high-capacity drum magazine.
“He shot at us again and again and again,” Coeur d’Alene Officer Joshua Schneider said in court Tuesday.
“I had gone beyond afraid and was instead determined” to do what he could to stop Rael, Schneider said. “That 75 seconds was the longest 30 minutes of my life.”
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