A Fredericksburg man who attacked a city police officer with a box cutter last year for no apparent reason was ordered Friday to serve 20 years in prison.

Joseph Louis Jackson, 25, was sentenced in Fredericksburg Circuit Court to a total of 45 years, with 25 years suspended. He had previously pleaded guilty to attempted capital murder and unlawful wounding.

The evidence presented by prosecutor Justin Witt showed that officer David Cabrera went to a home on Airport Avenue on July 23 in response to a reported domestic dispute involving Jackson and his older brother, who had called the police. Jackson was free on bond at the time on a charge resulting from an earlier altercation involving his brother, who has since died.

Footage from Cabrera’s body camera played in court Friday showed that just after Cabrera knocked on the door, Jackson came barreling out of the house swinging the box cutter. Cabrera suffered wounds to his face and chest from the attack, and his pain was clear in the audio.

Cabrera was able to fire three shots at Jackson while backing away from the surprise attack and later fired two more as Jackson was coming out of a window. It was not clear if any of the shots connected, though Jackson did have a foot injury when he was apprehended several hours later on Dixon Street, not far from the house.

A huge police response to the attack included officers and equipment from multiple area jurisdictions.

Cabrera testified that the incident had a profound impact on him and his family. He said that when he went back to work, his 6-year-old son expressed fear that he might not return home.

Prosecutor Justin Witt also put on camera footage from the officers who apprehended Jackson near the entrance to the Blue and Gray Parkway. That footage featured excessive cursing from Jackson, along with statements that described the incident as “fun at first, but now it’s boring” and a request for police to shoot him.

During an interview with state police the next morning, Jackson made several bizarre statements, including asking the special agents if they were human. He again mentioned a “suicide by cop” attempt.

Defense attorney Allen Bareford put on a number of witnesses during the lengthy hearing who all described Jackson as “respectful and helpful.” There was considerable testimony about his alcohol and mental health issues, which included a suicide attempt in 2015. Supporters said he needed treatment, not a lengthy prison term.

Witt requested a life sentence. He said Jackson has already had a number of run-ins with the law and represents “an ongoing clear and present danger to the community.”

Witt added that if Jackson had a gun that evening, “we’d be watching an execution video” on Cabrera’s body camera.

Bareford responded that Jackson certainly didn’t deserve a life sentence and said safeguards to protect the public can be put in place once he’s released.

Jackson apologized for his actions in a statement made just before Judge Gordon Willis pronounced his sentence. “I’m sorry. I just can’t believe I did something like this,” he said.

Willis noted that “only by the grace of a higher authority than this court” were the injuries to Cabrera and Jackson not much more serious.

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Keith Epps: 540/374-5404


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