Levelland man lashes out in court after receiving 30-year sentence in kidnapping case


A convicted kidnapper on Thursday was tackled to the floor of a federal courtroom in Lubbock and held down by multiple law enforcement agents after lashing out when he learned that a judge was sending him to prison for 30 years.

Damien Dre Gonzales, 27, was the last of seven defendants who came before Judge James Wesley Hendrix for sentencing that day.

Hendrix told Gonzales before handing him down the 365-month prison sentence that his behavior during the hearing showed he had no remorse for his actions and the trauma he inflicted on the 9-year-old girl he admitted to abducting.

Gonzales, who has been held at the Lubbock County Detention Center since October,

faced between 20 years to life in prison after pleading guilty in February to a count of kidnapping. However, a presentencing report that considered his criminal history and the nature of the offense, resulted in an advisory range of 292 to 365 months in prison.

His charge stems from an Aug. 23 arrest when police in Levelland caught him in his vehicle with a 9-year-old girl, who said he tried to rape her.

Gonzales and the girl, who are not related, both attended a birthday party in Levelland earlier that day.

The girl was at the party with her father, who rushed to help a woman who was choking. Gonzales used the chaos to trick the girl into leaving with him by asking her to help him take beer to his vehicle, according to federal court documents.

Family members called police when they discovered the girl was missing and saw home surveillance footage that showed the girl leaving with Gonzales.

Gonzales drove the girl several miles away and struck a mailbox before he stopped in the middle of the road to begin undressing and sexually assaulting her.

Meanwhile, two Levelland police officers responding to a call about a vehicle parked in the middle of the street found Gonzales’ vehicle with its emergency lights flashing and its trunk open.

One of the officers caught Gonzales, who he recognized from past encounters, trying to dress the girl.

Gonzales told the officer his car broke down. The officer noticed Gonzales’ pants zipper was down and his belt was unbuckled as he told what was described as a baffling story about where he was driving from and where he was going.

The other officer approached the girl who trembled as she clutched her underwear outside Gonzales’ vehicle.

A group of women from the birthday party arrived at the scene and one of them took the girl in her arms. The girl began sobbing and said Gonzales tried to rape her.

One of the officers searched Gonzales’ vehicle and found an open box of condoms in the passenger seat. One condom was missing.

The girl’s parents arrived at the scene and her father charged at Gonzales.

Gonzales was handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle where he kicked the door. He also threated officers as he was driven to the Hockley County jail.

While Gonzales did not cross state lines when he abducted the girl, his case was still considered a federal crime because he used a vehicle, which is deemed a facility or instrumentality of interstate commerce, which falls under the authority of the federal government.

During the hearing Gonzales stood before Hendrix asking for a lenient sentence arguing that “no one died and no one was seriously injured.”

He told the court that his abduction was unintentional and that he was merely giving the girl a ride home.

“I’m sorry about what happened,” Gonzales said. “It wasn’t intentional.”

David Sloan, Gonzales’ attorney, asked the court to take into consideration his client’s extensive history of mental illness.

He said his client has engaged in “out of control behavior his whole life.”

“This is somebody whose had a lot of problems,” he said.

Gonzales smiled and chuckled as federal prosecutors argued for a 365 month sentence telling the court that he was a danger to the community.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Callie Woolam described Gonzales as a person who would do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted regardless of whom it hurt.

Woolam told the court before abducting the girl from the party, he was grooming her to trust him.

“He did this for his own sexual desire and his own sexual gratification,” she said.

She argued that Gonzales’ punishment shouldn’t be diminished because police interrupted his assault on the girl.

As part of his plea, Gonzales signed and approved a factual resume that provided a narrative of the facts he is charged with including the attempted sexual assault of the 9-year-old girl. However, he appeared surprised and shook his head in amused disbelief when Woolam and Hendrix mentioned the attempted sexual assault.

Hendrix told Gonzales it was hard to image cases more disturbing than his and said the danger he posed to the community was “off the charts.”

“You continue to not care today,” he said. “That is very concerning.”

Hendrix told Gonzales that his actions in court showed he had no remorse nor did it appear he was accepting responsibility for his actions.

“It’s a 9-year-old girl, sir,” he said. “You used a 9-year-old girl as a thing to pleasure yourself. The damage done is immeasurable.”

Before handing down the sentence, he told Gonzales that he considered a harsher sentence. However, he said he decided against it since his guilty plea saved the girl and her family from having to go through a trial.

The chaos that came after the sentencing hearing was not something many courtroom officers had seen before in the federal courtroom in Lubbock.

After learning the value of his sentence in years, sentence Gonzales became upset, cursed and pulled at a microphone from the podium.

A U.S. Marshal grabbed him and Gonzales struggled against her and shoved her with his shoulder to throw her off. Another Marshal tackled him and a courtroom security officer put him in a headlock.

Within seconds more law enforcement agents in the courtroom including Lubbock County Sheriff taskforce officers who were in court on other cases that day, piled on Gonzales.

“Are you done?,” one officer said. “It’s over.”

However Gonzales continued to struggle with them and lob threats as he was pinned to the floor.

“Take these handcuffs off and see if we can do it all day,” he said.

Meanwhile, a member of Gonzales’ family yelled at officers to get off him before being ordered out of the room.

Gonzales was on the floor for about two minutes before members of the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office Detention Response Team arrived at the courtroom to escort him back to jail. Gonzales nor law enforcement agents appeared to be seriously injured after the fray.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office commends the officers and agents from the U.S. Marshals, FBI, Lubbock Police Department, Lubbock Sheriff’s Office, and Court Security who sprang into action to keep those in the courtroom safe,” said Erin Dooley, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We are grateful for their service.”

It is unclear if Gonzales will be charged in connection with his outburst.

Gonzales also faces unrelated counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child in connection with Lubbock police investigations into outcries from two teenagers who said Gonzales sexually assaulted them. Hendrix ordered potential sentences in those cases to run consecutively with the kidnapping sentence.


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