Man charged in officer's death wheeled into court on stretcher

Man charged in officer's death wheeled into court on stretcher
James Woods

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Wheeled into court on a stretcher, James Woods, 37, also known as Wathaniel L. Woods, was alert when he faced a judge as his charges were read on Monday.

Woods is charged with murder of a police officer, assault, fleeing police, trafficking in controlled substance, wanton endangerment, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, DUI, operating on a suspended operators license and possession of drug paraphernalia in connection to a crash on Tuesday that led to the death of a Louisville Metro Police Department officer.

According to the police report, after Woods punched the mother of his child in the face several times, he pulled a handgun and struck her with it. As bystanders tried to stop the assault, he then fired multiple rounds before taking off in his vehicle. When officers tried to pull him over on 22nd Street they said Woods took off. He was driving northbound on 26th Street when police said he ran a red light and crashed into officer Nick Rodman's car, causing injuries that led to his death.

Woods was carried away from the crash and hospitalized.

The arrest report states a search of Woods car found the loaded handgun, packaged cocaine, scales and baggies. After a blood test, Woods tested positive for alcohol, cocaine and opiates.

Woods has a long criminal history, mostly with drug possession and traffic convictions, dating back to 2004. He also pled guilty to escape in 2011, driving under the influence in 2013 and was charged with engaging in an organized crime syndicate in 2015.

His lengthy record has many wondering if Woods should have been in jail at the time of the crash.

Benham Sims is a criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor and judge. He's also the FOP prosecutor of the year for 1995-1996. He spoke with WAVE 3 News about Woods record and why some of the charges could have been "dismissed."

"People say well why would you dismiss them, because they're not being prosecuted in district court anymore," Sims said.

Instead, the charges could be in a different court or be heading to a grand jury. In addition, some of Woods charges say "merged," meaning the lesser traffic charges were dismissed and combined with more serious charges that could have been presented to the defendant in a plea deal.

The court record also lists Woods as a fugitive, another reason why some are wondering if Woods should have been in jail at the time of the crash.

But according to LMPD spokesman Lamont Washington, "fugitive" applies to anyone who has been convicted and charged with a crime. In Woods case, he had an outstanding traffic warrant - but it was a bench warrant. Different than an arrest warrant, Washington said police don't actively spend their time hunting down bench warrants.

"There are thousands of cases just like this, not only in Jefferson County but all over the state, where a person has a criminal history and has a warrant out for his arrest and it just takes a while to catch them. Because they don't want to be caught," Sims said.

Woods family members were at his arraignment.

"We was just trying to see if he could make a phone call we haven't been able to talk to him since it happened we don't know anything that's going on," a family member told the judge.

"His lawyer is going to come out and talk to you all," the judge replied.

WATCH: Connie Leonard's report

Woods' family did not want to talk after his appearance. His public defender also declined comment.

Woods is being held on a $1 million full cash bond. He is scheduled to appear back in court on April 13.

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