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Mental health called into question before sentencing of St. Cloud cop shooter

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ST. CLOUD, Fla. - A St. Cloud man who police said went on a shooting rampage with an AK-47, shooting up a police cruiser, has dodged life in prison.

Instead of facing attempted murder charges, prosecutors cut 20-year-old David Penney a deal that drastically reduced the punishment he could get and angered the officers who were attacked.

The State Attorney's Office dropped the attempted murder charges against Penney and instead recommended that he be sentenced to eight years in prison and 10 years of probation.

"We listen to victims, but we aren't controlled by victims," said State Attorney Jeff Ashton.

That deal reduced the possible punishment from a minimum of life in prison.

Police said Penney fired more than 100 rounds and wounded two police officers two years ago on Alabama Avenue.

St. Cloud Officer Clinton Wise was shot in the foot and Officer Spencer Endsley was hurt by shattered windshield glass.

Penney then turned the weapon on himself, shooting himself in the chin, authorities said.

Police said they believe Penney's first target was a nearby duplex. According to friends of the intended victim, Penney targeted the home because the victim ruined Penney's car.

Officers said they believe Penney was out to kill, because the majority of the bullet holes were in the concrete walls of the intended victim's bedroom.

Though the home was occupied, no one was hit. Penney then turned his sights on two St. Cloud officers.

"He peppered the area with gunfire, aiming at our officers," Chief Pete Gauntlett.

Detectives said that in addition to the two AK-47s, Penney also had plenty of ammo. They said they found several magazines that can hold up to 20 rounds all over the street.

Ashton spoke at a news conference on Wednesday and said it was in the best interest of justice to cut the plea deal. He also said when the community hears all the details of Penney's mental health issues, it will become clear.

"We decided that it was in the best interest of this community in the unique circumstances of this case to allow the judge to have discretion in deciding what to sentence him to," said Ashton.

Ashton said the unique circumstances behind the deal with Penney would keep him in state prison for no longer than 55 years. He said it has a lot to do with what experts said about whether Penney was sane or legally knew right from wrong when he opened fire.

St. Cloud Police Chief Pete Gauntlett said Wise and Endsley were surprised by the sentence limits prosecutors agreed to.

Penney is currently being held in the Osceola County Jail on no bond, because a judge believes he should be locked up at this point.

But if Osceola Circuit Judge Jon Morgan decides to sentence Penney to the minimum eight years, Penney could end up serving about six and a half years, because state inmates generally serve only 85 percent of their sentences.

Penney's sentencing hearing is set for April 19.