August 6 – Damian M. Fields, one of the men charged in the fatal shooting of John Leak Jr. near Greentree Apartments in June, has a long criminal record with several cases where Fields was charged with a serious offense and pleaded guilty to a minor offence.
Fields’ court records tell the story of a man charged with armed robbery, first-degree burglary, drug trafficking, and wanton threat, but often pleaded lower charges. In January, Fields was released from prison after serving two years of a 16-year sentence.
Fields’ co-defendant in the June shooting, Derrick Carroll, has been convicted of shooting a man on Frederica Street last year, and is also charged with drug trafficking and assaulting law enforcement.
Earlier this week, a Daviess Grand Jury indicted Fields and Carroll for murder in Leak’s death in a June 13 shooting on West Seventh Street. According to reports, officers responding to a report of a car accident found Leak with a gunshot wound. Officers theorize that Leak was shot, but managed to drive a short distance before crashing. Lek later died at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital.
The police are releasing almost no details about the assassination attempts against Fields and Carroll. Search warrants and affidavits from investigators normally included in the trial file had not yet been filed with the charges Friday.
According to reports from Daviess County Detention Center, Fields was first incarcerated there in January 2014, when he was 19 years old, on charges of third-degree burglary, possession of marijuana and resisting arrest.
Fields spent a day in jail after that arrest, and eight days in jail that same month after failing to appear in court. Fields was released from prison later that month while his case was pending, but did not stay out of trouble for long.
In March 2014, Fields was charged with first-degree robbery for an incident at Stovall’s Barber Shop on West Second Street. Fields pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, receiving a stolen firearm, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon for a total sentence of 12 years. Fields didn’t serve that long.
Fields was charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, possession of a hangun by a felon and five counts of first-degree willful threat in connection with a July 27, 2018 armed robbery of a home on East Ninth Street. According to court records, Fields and two other men went to an acquaintance’s home and staged a robbery, in which Fields fired a pistol into the floor and whipped the victim with a pistol.
In addition to the charges stemming from the incident, Fields was also charged with a persistent felony offender. A person who has been found guilty of a crime and has a previous criminal record can be considered a PFO, which carries long sentences.
In May 2020, Fields pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, possession of a gun by a felon, felony willful threat and charges. At the time, Fields had already pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and assaulting a deputy warden at the Daviess County Detention Center. Fields received a total sentence of 16.5 years in prison.
The PFO charge could have put Fields in prison for a minimum of 10 years before being eligible for parole, or up to 20 years. But under state law, a person cannot be considered a persistent felon if he pleads guilty, as Fields did. PFO charges in the assault and drug trafficking cases also had to be dropped as part of the guilty plea.
While incarcerated on the convictions, Fields wrote letters to Circuit Judge Jay Wethington, asking for his sentence to be adjourned so he could be released.
“This time the incarceration has had more impact not only for me but also for my family,” Fields wrote in September 2020. “I feel like they need me now more than ever. I know this prison lifestyle and reputation is something I no longer want to associate with.
“I’m just asking for one chance to show not just you but myself that I can function and maintain it as it should.”
Wethington denied Fields’ motion to suspend his sentence.
But Fields didn’t have to wait long for the release. In early 2022, Fields was released under the supervision of the probation commission. Fields’s assisted release began on January 19 and was scheduled to last until 2033.
The Department of Corrections had not released information about Fields’ parole Friday afternoon. Commonwealth Attorney Bruce Kuegel said he will be notified when an offender is released on parole, but will not be given the reasons behind the probation commission’s decision.
Soon Fields was back in the system.
On June 22, Owensboro Police charged Fields with a number of new offenses including first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance (carfentanil or fentanyl), receiving stolen goods over $10,000, trafficking in synthetic drugs, possession of a gun by a convicted felon and tampering with evidence. Leak’s death had occurred nine days before Fields was arrested on drug charges.
Carroll also has a long arrest record dating back to 2013, with charges ranging from second-degree robbery to drug trafficking and third-degree assault on a police or probation officer. In 2019, Carroll was charged with promoting contraband for a plan to supply drugs to Fields while Fields was in county jail.
Notably, in May 2021, Carroll was charged with first-degree wanton threat for shooting a man in an altercation near the 4600 block of Frederica Street.
Carroll was last convicted in November in connection with the May incident. Carroll pleaded guilty to second-degree willful threat, a felony, in exchange for a 12-month jail term. Carroll was given credit for the time he had already spent in prison and was given two years’ probation.
Carroll was released from prison on November 18. He was out of prison for less than five months before returning on new charges.
In early March, Carroll was charged with trafficking a controlled substance, receiving a stolen firearm, tampering with evidence and possessing a firearm by a felon. Carroll was released from prison on March 11.
Carroll was arrested in Alabama on June 28, 15 days after Leak’s death. According to media reports, Carroll and a woman fled police in a vehicle and beat a person on a bicycle before being apprehended.
Carroll will be extradited from Alabama to appear in Daviess Circuit Court on August 18. Fields will first appear on the murder charge on August 30.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, [email protected], Twitter: @JamesMayse