Deerfield Twp. man receives 17 to 23 years in prison for shooting at deputy

Lance Runion appeared Monday in Warren County Common Pleas Court for a sentencing hearing. He was sentenced to 17 to 23.5 years in prison for the attempted aggravated murder of a Warren County Sheriff's deputy in February during a well-being check. ED RICHTER/STAFF
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Lance Runion appeared Monday in Warren County Common Pleas Court for a sentencing hearing. He was sentenced to 17 to 23.5 years in prison for the attempted aggravated murder of a Warren County Sheriff's deputy in February during a well-being check. ED RICHTER/STAFF

A Deerfield Twp. man was sentenced to serve 17 to 23 1/2 years in prison for the attempted aggravated murder of a Warren County Sheriff’s deputy in February as she was making a welfare check on him requested by his family.

Warren County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Tepe Monday sentenced Lance Runion, 57. The sentence mandated Runion serve a minimum of 17 years. Runion’s sentencing came on the day his trial was supposed to begin before he pleaded guilty Aug. 19 to the charges of attempted aggravated murder and firearm specification.

Tepe said the seven-year term for the firearm specification will be served consecutively with the 10 to 15 year sentence for attempted aggravated murder charge.

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The other charges against Runion - attempted murder and felonious assault with attached gun specifications of three years and seven years - were merged with the attempted aggravated murder and firearm specification.

Runion was shackled and clad in a red jail uniform during the hearing and appeared to be shaking and sobbed when he apologized to the court and to Deputy Sara Vaught. He also thanked the first responders, deputies and doctors who treated him after the shooting incident.

As Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell made his comments, a video recorded by a doorbel-camera was played in court.

Fornshell said Vaught and three other deputies went to Runion’s home “for the most humanitarian of all reasons, a well-being check.” He said Runion was watching the deputies watching them through the window or on a Ring video doorbell camera. As she was knocking on the door, Runion could be heard saying, “you’re dead.”

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As Vaught made multiple attempts to get him to answer his front door, Runion opened the door with a 9mm handgun and opened fire on her as she ducked down on the front porch and returned fire, striking Runion.

“You’re dead. Those are the defendant’s words,” Fornshell said. “... This was not an emotionally charged incident, it was not an escalating situation, not that either of those would excuse the defendant conduct. It was the most innocuous of all law enforcement contacts with the public -- a well being check. The defendant did not act impulsively. The defendant stated exactly what was about to happen-- ‘you’re dead.’”

He lied in wait for two minutes before opening the door and shooting at Vaught.

“It’s truly a miracle that Deputy Vaughn is still with us today,” Fornshell said.

He called the incident an attack on Vaughn, the other deputies at the scene and on all law enforcement in general who are regularly criticized for escalating situations and overreact with uses of force. Fornshell said this is an example of officers being ready at a second’s notice to use deadly force to respond to these types of incidents.

Fornshell asked the court to impose a significant sentence, also noting Runion did have some mitigating factors by taking responsibility and pleading guilty to all charges; and a lack of criminal record.

Vaught, a deputy for the past 12 years, said, “but for a few inches, neither of us would be here. But for a few inches and we both survived.”

Since March, she said has listened to the defense counsel talking about the people who vouched for Runion’s character to prove he was not a threat to the community. Vaught said Runion pointing a gun in her face and shooting at her makes him “exponentially worse” and made his violence makes him more dangerous to the community because it was “unpredictable, unprovoked and inexplicable.”

“You met me at the door with murderous intent,” she said.

She said is physically OK and returned to work, but was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since the shooting. Vaught also thanked her trainers over the years.

“I’m stilling healing but I will carry the effects of this for the rest of my life,“ Vaught said.

Runion said, “I’m sorry this happened” as he apologized to Vaught and the other deputies during the hearing.

He said he didn’t remember what happened that night or being in the hospital. Runion thanked the first responders and doctors at the hospital.

During the hearing, it was said that Runion held a master’s degree from Xavier University and was a teacher. He previously worked as a corrections officer.

After the hearing, Vaught was asked what went through her mind when Runion opened the door and pointed his gun at her. “It happened so fast, I couldn’t even think,” she said. “My training literally took over and saved my life.”

Vaught said she “wants society to start taking better care of each other, and that we focus on mental health, and destigmatizing the need for mental health care so we can prevent circumstances like this from happening in the future.”

She said if someone needs help, the county partners with Butler Behavioral who offers free or low cost care and If someone needs help she suggested Butler Behavioral free low cost care or the UC Stress Center.

Vaught credited the trainers, they all have left her with words of wisdom or something that helped me. She said, “for a police officer, take your training seriously because when it comes down to it, it that’s what’s going to save your life.”