GENESEO, Ill. — A 38-year-old man who fired multiple shots at police during a December 2009 standoff in downtown Geneseo tearfully apologized Wednesday before being sentenced to 50 years in prison.
A Henry County jury convicted Gerald Edwards on nine felony counts, including two for attempted murder, in January.
Judge Ted Hamer said Edwards’ actions held the entire town of 6,500 people hostage during the standoff. Edwards must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, or 42.5 years.
Edwards took his ex-girlfriend and two children hostage in her downtown apartment in the early morning of Dec. 11, 2009. The break-in led to a lengthy standoff in which he fired his gun at police several times and, at one point, held the gun to the woman’s head. No one was injured during the incident.
Edwards told the judge and about 30 family members in attendance that he wanted to apologize to everyone affected that day.
“There is nothing I can say or do that will change what has been done,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what has happened.”
During his apology, Edwards turned and faced his family members, and many of them were sobbing with him. Edwards said he has seven sisters, three brothers, eight children and one grandson, who was born while he has been in custody for the attempted murders and other charges.
Edwards acknowledged that with a lengthy sentence he will miss several key moments in his children’s lives and it is likely that some of his relatives will die before his release.
He also apologized to the Geneseo community where he was a business owner, his attorney Michael Clancy of Chicago noted, and acknowledged the police officers involved, many of whom he knows.
Edwards said he was drunk and on drugs that day and wanted to commit suicide in front of his former girlfriend.
He and his attorney asked the judge for a sentence of 18 to 19 years.
Henry County State’s Attorney Terrance Patton, who asked the judge to impose a 120-year sentence with consecutive terms for various counts, said Edwards had plenty of opportunities to end his life, if that was his true intent, and had plenty of ammunition.
He also noted that the ex-girlfriend eventually grabbed Edwards’ gun and tossed it out a window before escaping, and police later had to use tear gas to get Edwards out.
“He has a dark side, and what’s worse is he knows it,” Patton said. “He won’t do what he needs to do to control it.”
According to Patton, Edwards knew drinking alcohol and doing drugs such as cocaine made his anger problems worse. He said Edwards also was not taking prescribed medication for his anxiety and bipolar disorder.
Before Hamer issued the sentence, Patton referred to several written victims’ statements, including those from police, some of whom had bullets land within inches of them. One officer, who had just returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of the 2009 incident, remarked at how surreal it was to find himself being shot at in the downtown where he grew up.
Hamer said the sentence was intended to punish Edwards, deter others from similar acts, and protect the public. He also questioned Edwards’ claim that he didn’t intend to hurt anyone and said Edwards’ intent was to get everyone’s attention.
“If you just wanted to hurt yourself; if you really just wanted to commit suicide (that day), you could have easily done that, but you didn’t,” Hamer said.