The sergeant was sentenced to psychiatric therapy and house arrest because of his heroic actions in Foxy Lady shooting, despite having used police tools to stalk his ex-wife and destroy her property.
(TNS) — A judge ordered a decorated city police officer in Massachusetts accused of vandalizing his ex-wife's minivan into treatment instead of jail after a dangerousness hearing Wednesday.
Judge Franco J. Gobourne did not find Sgt. Joshua Fernandes, who was seriously injured in the December 2006 Foxy Lady rampage, to be dangerous after the hearing in New Bedford District Court. The judge did, however, set conditions for his release.
Gobourne ordered Fernandes to enter treatment at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital, and wear a GPS device to monitor his whereabouts. Prosecutor Shawn Guilderson said he doubted whether the hospital will take Fernandes because in a similar case involving a corrections officer the hospital would not admit him because he was criminally charged.
The judge said Fernandes will be held without bail until a hospital bed is found. When Fernandes is released from the hospital, he will be on home confinement with a possible curfew, the judge said. He also ordered the officer to have no contact with his ex-wife and her friend and to surrender any and all weapons.
The judge then turned to Fernandes and said he understands the officer "acted bravely" in the Foxy Lady shooting, but that "won't shield you from further prosecution if you continue to act this way."
Gobourne could have found the veteran New Bedford police sergeant to be dangerous and ordered him held without bail for four months after the pre-trial detention hearing.
"Not every answer to a problem is jail. Sometimes they need treatment, especially men and women of the Police Department when they see such terrible things. It just gets to them and it would anyone," said defense attorney Amy Valente, who was formerly a Bristol County prosecutor.
Valente said Fernandes suffers from depression and PTSD, after he was shot in the face and his cruiser was destroyed by gunfire in the Foxy Lady rampage. He has undergone multiple surgeries and his face is scarred from a bullet and shrapnel. Another officer in his cruiser suffered gunshots to both arms and thigh. The cruiser was shot more than 20 times.
"Bravery comes at a cost," Valente said.
She said his erratic behavior is "unbecoming" for Fernandes, saying his life went on "a downward spiral" after he learned his face suffered "permanent damage" and he would always feel pain from the shooting. That news was coupled with financial stress and a failing marriage.
Prosecutor Guilderson painted a very different picture of Fernandes as a man who was obsessed with monitoring his ex-wife's activity, including stealing her cellphones to isolate her; seeking the assistance of state and New Bedford police to download calls to her cellphones; running the license plates of acquaintances; and placing a GPS device on the minivan she was using after she began seeing a new man in February.
"He is possessive, controlling, manipulative," said Guilderson, adding the officer used his badge to gain information about her.
On Friday night, Fernandes went to Seekonk with a woman and continually checked his phone, the prosecutor said. Prosecutors and state police assigned to the DA's office, who are investigating the case, believe Fernandes was monitoring his ex-wife's movements over his phone through a GPS device on her vehicle.
He found his wife's minivan at the Dublin Rose Irish Sports Pub in Seekonk and punctured one of the tires on her friend's car, the prosecutor said. He later stole her vehicle and drove it to a rest area in Swansea where he smashed all the windows and stole a radio.
There were other occasions when he took out a gun or a knife and threatened suicide in the presence of his wife, the prosecutor said.
Fernandes asked a state trooper to download information from one of his ex-wife's phones, and when the trooper asked what type of case it was, he answered, a "lose my job kind of case," the prosecutor said. The trooper refused to download the information, but a second trooper innocently did it for Fernandes. He also had an officer run the plates of a man his ex-wife was seeing.
"He used his power to see who she was with. The officer and troopers thought it was a criminal investigation," the prosecutor said.
Valente said Fernandes raised $35,000 with the New Bedford Police Union for the benefit of Special Olympics and is one of the key organizers of the union's summertime carnival at Buttonwood Park that replaced the Whaling City Festival.
Several New Bedford police officers were in the courtroom to support Fernandes. "They know he's a good person battling a bad disorder," Valente told the judge.
©2019 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.