Looney sentenced to 99 years for attempted murder of Lt. Rex Sorrow

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Rodney Deland Looney (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office)

Updated 1-7-21 3:08 p.m.

CULLMAN, Ala. – Rodney Deland Looney, 48, of Cullman County on Thursday was sentenced to 99 years in prison by Cullman County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Nicholas for the 2016 attempted murder of Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Lt. Rex Sorrow. Looney’s mental state had been an issue in the trial, though an earlier plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect was withdrawn by the defense. Looney was convicted Oct. 21, 2020.

“I am pleased with the jury’s verdict and the maximum sentence imposed by Judge Nicholas,” said Cullman County District Attorney Wilson Blaylock. “Above all else, we are thankful that Lt. Sorrow’s life was spared.  Lt. Rex Sorrow has always served our community with honor and courage. Looney’s attempt to take Lt. Sorrow’s life is grave reminder of the dangerous situations that our law enforcement officers encounter every day. Justice has been served.”

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 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.”

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com