BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington man was acquitted Monday of attempting to shoot at a Bloomington police officer during a stand-off in March.
Bailey Pontius, 18, surrendered to police who located him west of town with a loaded handgun after his mother reported him and the gun missing from their home.
Following a bench trial that ended Monday, Judge Scott Drazewski ruled prosecutors did not prove that Pontius, who has a history of mental illness, pointed the weapon at officer Scott Wold.
"The bottom line is, there is no evidence the defendant attempted to discharge the weapon in the direction of officer Wold," said Drazewski in his ruling.
Drazewski did find Pontius guilty of possession of a stolen gun, unlawful use of a weapon and possession of a gun without a firearm owner's identification card.
The issue of the defendant's mental health was raised after the state asked last week that he be examined by a psychiatrist, a request generally made by defense. The judge denied the request because Pontius was not asserting an insanity defense on the charges.
The bench trial was put on hold for a week while Pontius considered his options for a mental health defense. The suspect has received treatment for several chronic mental illnesses, according to testimony from his mother.
On Monday, defense lawyer Ron Lewis said Pontius did not want to pursue a defense that relied upon his mental condition at the time of the incident.
Before issuing his decision, the judge denied defense arguments that Pontius did not understand the waiver he made of his constitutional right to remain silent.
"It took less than 20 seconds to deliver the Miranda" warning to Pontius who often has difficulty understanding concepts, said Lewis.
Assistant State's Attorney Jessica Woods countered that Pontius is intelligent and spoke openly about his actions.
"He was able to give an excellent interview, state what his plan was and how things changed in his plan," said Woods.
Pontius faces up to seven years in prison on those charges when he is sentenced Jan. 30. He also is eligible for probation.
After the verdicts, State's Attorney Jason Chambers said, "I hope we get a resolution that protects the public and addresses the mental health issues in this case so this does not happen again."
Lewis was not available for comment.