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Ex-Cop Who Robbed Store to Pay Disabled Son’s Bills is Spared Prison Term

March 7, 1994

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) _ A former police officer who robbed a liquor store to help pay medical bills for his brain-damaged son was spared prison Monday.

Eric Shames was sentended to five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service. He also was ordered to repay the $1,500 he stole at gunpoint.

″I never would have hurt anybody,″ Shames told the judge, his voice trembling. ″I just wanted to pay some bills.″

Shames’ 4-year-old son, Christopher, was born with a rare heart disorder called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Surgery performed in July 1992 went awry, leaving Christopher brain damaged, blind and in a wheelchair. He requires 24-hour care and must be fed through his stomach.

Shames’ lawyer, Geoffrey K. Orlando, said Christopher has $200,000 in medical bills that are not covered by insurance.

Shames, 33, pleaded guilty to felony robbery. He said he used an unloaded .44-caliber Magnum to rob the liquor store in August 1993.

Prosecutor Clem Patti supported the sentence of probation that was ordered by state Justice James Cowhey.

Shames’ father and brother committed suicide in the late 1980s, and in 1988 Shames retired from the New Rochelle Police Department after injuring his spine while helping subdue a drug addict. Shames said he receives only disability payments; his wife is a registered nurse but does not work because she takes care of Christopher.

After the sentencing, Shames said he robbed the store fearing his son would be taken away because of all the money he owed. ″All I wanted to do was pay some bills because I was so afraid of losing my son,″ he said.

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