DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa man on Friday admitted to killing two Des Moines-area police officers who were ambushed as they sat in their patrol cars.
Scott Michael Greene withdrew his not guilty plea at a morning hearing and pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Urbandale officer Justin Martin, 24, and Des Moines Sgt. Anthony Beminio, 38. He was sentenced to consecutive life prison terms.
Greene, 46, admitted he shot both men in the early morning last Nov. 2 within minutes of one another as they sat in their patrol cars about 2 miles apart. Police arrested Greene later that day.
Greene didn't explain why he killed the officers and he declined to speak during Friday's hearing, which was supposed to be a routine pretrial status conference until Greene decided to change his plea and seek immediate sentencing.
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said Greene signaled a few weeks ago that he was prepared to plead guilty and go to prison. A judge's gag order prevented attorneys from revealing Greene's plea plans ahead of time.
Sarcone said Greene planned his attack by loading an assault rifle with high-powered shells. He bought a bottle of whiskey at a convenience store and went out and shot the first officer he encountered on the street.
"I think he just disliked police officers," Sarcone said. "I think we saw that in some of the conversations that he had."
Sarcone said Greene had the gun loaded and had additional loaded magazines ready to go. During the shootings it appears he had changed magazines and reloaded the gun.
"Clearly he planned it," Sarcone said.
Sarcone said Greene wrote what amounted to a hit list on his jail cell's walls that included the names of six people, including Sarcone's name, those of three deputies who worked at the jail and the names of the two slain officers, whose names were checked off.
He said Greene also wrote the word murder backward, as in the film "The Shining," and that he drew a scorecard with two points for himself and zero for the Urbandale and Des Moines police departments. Drawings also indicate M4 for the type of rifle he used and 556 for the ammunition size and RIP alongside the officers' initials.
Greene killed the officers weeks after run-ins with police at a high school football game at which he waved a large Confederate flag in front of black spectators. A school district later barred Greene from district activities for security reasons.
Greene's attorney, assistant state public defender Matthew Sheeley, said Friday that he didn't advise his client to plead guilty.
"I can't say what's inside his head and I can't discuss what we've discussed, but he apparently decided that he didn't want a trial and that's why he pleaded," Sheeley said after the hearing.
Sarcone said the plea was better for the families because they won't have to sit through a trial.
A county crisis worker read a statement from Beminio's wife that expressed his family's pain.
"Although our family feels broken, we know the actions by this individual will not define us," Zoe Beminio wrote. "As a family, we will pick up the shattered pieces and continue to push forward as we know this is what Tony would want."
After killing the officers, Greene drove to a rural area northwest of Des Moines. He turned himself in to an employee of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources after getting his pickup stuck in a field.
Urbandale Police Chief Ross McCarty said there is no sense of great satisfaction or elation.
"We're glad he's going to spend the rest of his life in prison," McCarty said. "As far as a satisfying ending to it, no. This is going to go on with us and the Beminio and Martin families for a long time past this."
Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert said no one expected relief or closure from the guilty plea.
"This will live on with us for the rest of our careers and the rest of our lives," he said.