(Updated) Cullman Co. man found guilty of attempted murder of sheriff’s deputy

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Rodney Deland Looney (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office)

Updated 10-21-20 at 6:51 p.m.

CULLMAN, Ala. – Early Wednesday afternoon, Rodney Deland Looney, 48, of Cullman County was found guilty of the 2016 attempted murder of Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Lt. Rex Sorrow. Looney’s mental state was an issue in the trial and could figure into sentencing, though an earlier plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect was withdrawn by the defense. 

Looney has a history of arrests for public intoxication and DUI, and was intoxicated at the time of the shooting, according to an eyewitness.

The grand jury’s 2017 indictment alleged that Looney “did, with the intent to commit the crime of Murder (Title 13A-6-2(a)(1) of the Code of Alabama) attempt to intentionally cause the death of another person, to-wit: REX SORROW, by SHOOTING AT HIM WITH FIREARM/RIFLE.”

According to Magistrate Joan White’s report submitted shortly after the incident in 2016, Sorrow responded to a call on County Road 1223 in reference to Rodney Deland Looney shooting his rifle in the front yard of his house. The defendant’s mother Janice Looney called the dispatcher, saying that the defendant was suicidal and intoxicated. Upon the deputy’s arrival in the driveway, Looney’s mother urged the dispatcher to tell Sorrow to “back up; he is heading towards the deputy to shoot at him.”

The report describes a scene in which Looney was walking toward Sorrow’s patrol vehicle when he opened fire, discharging at least three shots from an AR-15 type rifle. Neither the officer nor his vehicle was hit; Looney’s mother, who witnessed the incident, stated that the rounds were fired into the ground, though no bullets were recovered.

Sorrow, taking cover behind his vehicle, repeatedly ordered Looney to stop, and when Looney began advancing faster and raised the rifle again, Sorrow fired two shots, striking the suspect both times. When the suspect went down, Sorrow called 911 and went to the suspect and administered aid until paramedics arrived.

Bodycam video from the scene recorded Looney’s mother, who witnessed the incident, telling Sorrow that he had no choice but to shoot the defendant. She repeated that statement later to CCSO Capt. Edward Potter. She also said that she feared her son was attempting “suicide by cop.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, a date for sentencing had not been set.


Updated 10-21-20 at 12:28 p.m.

A jury has found Rodney Deland Looney guilty of one count of attempted murder. This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


CULLMAN, Ala. – Trial got underway Monday for Rodney Deland Looney, 48, of Cullman, for the alleged attempted murder of Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Lt. Rex Sorrow. According to the CCSO, on Nov. 15, 2016, Sorrow responded to a report of gunfire along County Road 1223 near Falkville and the Morgan County line, but in Cullman County. After the deputy’s arrival, Looney allegedly fired a rifle at Sorrow, leading to an exchange of gunfire.

According to Cullman County District Attorney Wilson Blaylock, “He kept coming at the officer, shooting right at him. The officer gave multiple commands to stop and drop his weapon.”

Looney was critically injured in the exchange. Sorrow was not wounded.

The Grand Jury’s 2017 indictment alleged that Looney “did, with the intent to commit the crime of Murder (Title 13A-6-2(a)(1) of the Code of Alabama) attempt to intentionally cause the death of another person, to-wit: REX SORROW, by SHOOTING AT HIM WITH FIREARM/RIFLE.”

After the incident, Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry appealed to state lawmakers to fund mental health services. Looney was ordered by the court prior to the trial to undergo a mental evaluation; the results were not made public. The defendant has a history of arrests for domestic violence, public intoxication and DUI.

Lt. Sorrow took the stand Monday afternoon. The trial is ongoing.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com