Gang member who shot at deputy gets 7 to 30 years

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A man who shot at a patrol car last year, narrowly missing the deputy inside, was sentenced to seven to 30 years in prison Monday.

Paul Perez-Sandoval, 24, previously identified as Raul, pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to one count of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle in a populated area to promote the activities of a criminal gang. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years.

Carson City Sheriff's Deputy Gary Underhill, training in California with his National Guard unit, said in a letter to the court that he thought he was going to die in the January 2008 incident.

"I remember clearly, as though it happened only minutes ago, the sight of a handgun pointed directly at my face through my front windshield from less that 25 yards away. I also am still haunted by the deafening blast and surprisingly blinding flash as (Paul) Perez pulled the trigger. I remember in that moment waiting for my face to explode as the bullet struck me," Underhill wrote. "I remember time slowing to a near standstill, as I dove over my center console for cover, and prayed that the next shots, which I was sure to come, would at least strike me in the back where I was protected by my body armor."

Underhill was patrolling on College Parkway near Airport Road when Perez-Sandoval, a documented member of a Carson City gang, rode past and fired at him.

Underhill chased the vehicle into a senior citizen mobile home park. Perez-Sandoval and three other occupants fled on foot and were picked up by police in the following days.

Perez-Sandoval admitted he fired the weapon from the back seat, but claimed he was intoxicated and the weapon accidentally discharged.

Underhill, who deploys to Iraq in the next two months, said he never expected to be the victim of sniper fire in his hometown.

"The events of the night of this shooting still haunt me," he wrote. "Although I have been a police officer for nearly 19 years, and a soldier for 15 years, coming close to death is never easy. As a soldier during a time of war, the possibility of death is always tapping on your shoulder. It is an inevitability that we willingly accept. However, the mechanics of a wartime death are impersonal, and rarely face to face."

Following the hearing, Underhill, reached by cell phone as he rode a bus back from the training, said he was pleased with the penalty Perez-Sandoval received.

"Prisons were built for guys like this," Underhill said. "He is a drain on society. If this guy was so bold as to target and shoot at an armed deputy sheriff in a fully marked patrol car, how much of a threat is he to an unarmed citizen of our community?"

- Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.


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