A Waleska man pleaded guilty this week to shooting at a Cherokee Sheriff’s Office deputy and leading officers on a high-speed chase.

According to a statement from District Attorney Shannon Wallace’s office:

Joseph Leon Donaldson, 38, entered his plea just as jury selection was scheduled to start Monday. Donaldson pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, obstruction of an officer, and discharging of a gun near a highway or street.

The incident began at 3:50 a.m. on Aug. 23, 2018 when Donaldson refused to pull over for a deputy in Waleska then drove his Chevy Blazer at speeds that reached up to 90 mph, weaving back and forth across the road.

While traveling north on Salacoa Road, Donaldson fired a 9 mm pistol more than a dozen times at a deputy. Donaldson then escaped into Pickens County, where he hid his vehicle. Law enforcement officers located Donaldson several hours later in a Dodge pickup in Pickens County, where he was arrested.

“Luckily Deputy Harris was able to go home to his wife and his family after the incident. This wasn’t one shot, two shots, three shots. This defendant unloaded a barrage of bullets at this officer,” said Assistant District Attorney Robert Fickett, who prosecuted the case. “This sentence reflects our community’s position that people who endanger our law enforcement officers by engaging in such violent acts will be held accountable.”

After hearing arguments from both sides, Superior Court Judge Tony Baker addressed the defendant, saying that his actions were “egregious” and he was lucky he didn’t injure himself or someone else. He advised the defendant to get a GED and drug counseling while in prison. He then sentenced Donaldson to 30 years, with 13 years to serve.

“Every day and every night on the streets of Cherokee County, our police officers put their lives in danger to protect and serve the citizens of our county. I am immensely thankful for their bravery,” Wallace said. “Nationally, we’ve seen too many police officers senselessly killed in the line of duty by actions just like those of Mr. Donaldson. This office simply will not tolerate anyone endangering the lives of our police officers in Cherokee County.”

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