The man who gunned down Miami Detective James Walker in a bizarre case of mistaken identity must serve life in prison, a judge ruled Monday.
There was never any doubt about the sentence for Andrew Rolle. Under Florida law, first-degree murder carries a mandatory life prison term.
In a courtroom packed with Miami police officers, Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez said Rolle “acted in a selfish, senseless way – a complete act of cruelty.”
“It’s sad that you will be spending the rest of your life in prison,” Tinkler said. “But you brought this upon yourself.”
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Rolle, 27, showed no emotion, barely paying attention as he flipped through a legal pad while seated in the defendant’s box. He chose not to speak.
A jury earlier this month convicted Rolle, 27, for the January 2008 slaying of Walker, a domestic crimes detective. Walker was off-duty and had been visiting his estranged wife in North Miami Beach when he was gunned down.
Prosecutors said that night, a friend driving a white Ford Taurus had dropped off Rolle in an alley as he was hellbent on exacting revenge against a rival who had stolen a pistol from him.
Rolle, wielding an AK-47 rifle, popped out of the alleyway and shot up the man he believed was the gun thief. Unbeknownst to Rolle, his friend drove off at the sound of the gunfire.
In an extraordinary coincidence, Walker was driving a nearly identical white Ford Taurus and pulled into the alleyway just at that moment. Rolle tried getting into the car – only to see Walker pull his service pistol and point it at the gunman.
Rolle unleashed a volley of AK-47 bullets, killing Walker instantly. The detective got off one errant shot.
“A life cut short for a stupid gun – a gun that didn’t work,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Abbe Rifkin told the judge on Monday.
The trial was hard fought.
Rolle’s defense attorney attacked the lack of fingerprints and DNA linking the defendants to the crime scene. He also questioned the credibility of Rolle’s friend who drove him to the scene, and another cohort to whom Rolle allegedly confessed. Both testified against Rolle.
After less than a day of deliberations, jurors initially told the judge that they were deadlocked at 6-6. But the next day, jurors returned a guilty verdict.
Monday’s sentencing was a relief for Walker’s relatives.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said his cousin, Gwen Samuels. “We miss James. We will always miss James.”