A judge will decide the fate of an 18-year-old Wharton man who pleaded guilty Friday to trying to kill an El Campo police officer in June.

Joseph Ruben Gutierrez could spend the rest of his life in prison or receive probation, depending on the sentence 23rd District Court Judge Ben Hardin metes out.

The teen stood before Hardin in the Wharton County Courthouse Friday morning, pleading guilty to a single count of attempted capital murder of a police officer.

Judge Hardin will hear evidence in the case Wednesday with a pre-sentencing investigation to follow. Sentencing is expected to be decided upon early next year.

Gutierrez initially faced five counts of attempted capital murder of a police officer.

On June 13, Gutierrez fled from El Campo officers in an SUV with a 14-year-old driver behind the wheel, forced two police cruisers off the road and then directed the driver to stop.

Gutierrez then got out of the vehicle, fired two shots striking the front windshield of pursuing ECPD Officer Kendrick Matula’s cruiser before getting back in and directing the driver to flee.

The chase ended with a wreck at the intersection of Pinchot and Marion. The two fled on foot but surrendered a few moments later.

Matula was hit by flying glass fragments and pieces of the dashboard.

“We’re asking for significant prison time,” District Attorney Dawn Allison told the Leader-News Friday.

The guilty plea stems from the shots fired at Matula. All other charges against Gutierrez will be set aside, including attempted capital murder charges for forcing the two other officers’ cruisers from the roadway and drug charges.

Officer Matula was in the courtroom along with family members when Gutierrez pleaded guilty. Allison said her office has worked with ECPD from the beginning.

“We have a solid case,” she said, adding it had been set for trial starting Monday when Gutierrez opted to plead.

Gutierrez, who is being held in the Wharton County Jail, waives his right to appeal as part of the plea agreement and, Allison said, he will have to serve at least half of any prison time the judge decides upon.

The case against the juvenile driver is still pending.

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