KANSAS CITY — Fifteen years ago, Kansas City police officers Patrick Brown and Larry Schoen fought for their lives on New Year's Eve.
Now they are fighting to prevent early parole for the man who emerged from a shadow and shot them both at point-blank range.
A protective vest saved Brown from the bullet that slammed into his chest. Schoen was hit in the leg and hip.
The officers shot back, wounded Saeed Aquil and held him at gunpoint until help arrived on the scene near 37th Street and Prospect Avenue.
Aquil, then 24, was sentenced to 60 years. The officers, the judge and everyone else involved thought he would be an old man before parole became a possibility.
Apparently they were wrong.
Because of a loophole in Missouri law, Aquil became eligible after serving 13 years.
“I feel like a second-rate citizen,” Schoen said. “If I was a civilian, he would have to serve 85 percent (of his sentence).”
Aquil, now 38, has a parole hearing early next month.
At a news conference Wednesday, Brown and Schoen joined Jackson County law enforcement officials who are urging the parole board to make Aquil serve his entire sentence.
“If you are willing to violently assault a police officer, you will violently assault anyone,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar.
Next month’s hearing will be the second for Aquil, who was denied release two years ago. Both Brown and Schoen said they feel victimized again each time they have to plead to keep him in prison.
“He stood five feet from me, looked me in the eye and shot me in the chest,” said Brown, who has left the department.
Schoen, now a sergeant, said the scars on his body reminded of the incident every day.
“I will never forget seeing the muzzle flashes, seeing my partner fall and the pain of being shot,” he said.
When Aquil was sentenced in 1996, Missouri law called for persons convicted of certain dangerous felonies, including first-degree assault, to serve 85 percent of their sentence.
At least initially, Missouri corrections officials thought Aquil fell into that category. Brown received a letter from them in 1996 stating that Aquil would be eligible in 2037.
However, first-degree assault of a law enforcement officer was not on the list until lawmakers added it in 2003.
Brown said he has been told by corrections officials that more than 50 other inmates have the chance for early parole.
He pointed to the recent incident in Washington state where four police officers were killed by a man with a violent past who had been released early from prison.
A spokeswoman for the corrections department said the parole board was aware of the concerns and would take them into “serious consideration.”