MAYS LANDING — Retired Atlantic City police Officer Josh Vadell and his wife sat quietly Monday as a judge handed down 32-year sentences to both Martell Chisholm and Demetris Cross for their involvement in a 2016 shooting that left Vadell partially paralyzed on his left side.
“I want you guys to know that your robbery was successful that night,” Vadell said as he addressed Chisholm and Cross. “You robbed me of my life. You robbed my kids of their daddy. You robbed my wife of her husband. You robbed my mother and sister of their son and brother.”
Cross and Chisholm appeared before Judge John R. Rauh in Atlantic County Superior Court. In orange sweat suits, the two men, both of Cumberland County, sat mostly stone-faced beside their attorneys throughout the approximately two-hour proceedings.
Vadell wore a Blue Lives Matter flag pin on the lapel of his black suit and the president of Atlantic City’s police union, Matt Rogers, and Vadell’s former partner, Thomas McCabe, sat nearby.
The pair will each serve 15 years for the attempted murder of McCabe and 17 years for the attempted murder of Vadell, the two additional years a result of Vadell’s extensive injuries.
Those terms will be served concurrently, meaning they will serve a total of 17 years for both attempted murders. They will also face 15 years for each of the three victims robbed at gun point. Those three terms will be served concurrently.
“There’s no amount of sentence that will equate to the life sentence that (Vadell) and his family will receive,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said in an interview after the sentencing. “When we look at a sentence like this, we’re hopeful that it will deter others from proceeding down the same path.”
The men will have to serve 85 percent of their sentences before they are eligible for parole consideration.
Before the sentences were read, Vadell and his wife, Laura, both took turns addressing the court and the men charged with his attempted murder. Cross looked at the floor, while Chisholm looked at the couple throughout.
Vadell recounted his memory of the night.
“All three of you had the option of making those decisions. My partner, Tommy, and I did not have a decision that night because we were working,” Vadell said, occasionally struggling with words. “It was a job we chose and one we did well and with pride.”
Laura Vadell said the struggles that lie ahead for their family as the young father continues his recovery dwarf the sentences handed down.
“Some may say I am lucky I still have my husband with me. They are true. He is physically here. However, I feel like I did lose him that night. He is not the same person he once was,” Laura Vadell said. “It’s like he was made up of a million little pieces, and I only got a handful back that was truly him.”
Given the opportunity to speak, both Chisholm and Cross expressed remorse for their actions. Both, however, maintained their ignorance to the fact that their accomplice, Jerome Damon, had a gun or that he was planning a robbery. Both are planning appeals.
“I have remorse,” Chisholm said, pausing to find his words. “At the end of the day, I still was wrongly convicted. I still maintain my innocence a thousand percent.”
Police say Chisholm, 31, Cross, 30, and Damon, 25, held up three men at gunpoint in the early hours of Sept. 3, 2016, near the Arkansas Avenue parking garage for Caesars Atlantic City.
Vadell and McCabe responded and as soon as Vadell exited the vehicle, he was shot in the head by Damon. McCabe returned fire and Damon was found dead a block-and-a-half away.
Cross and Chisholm fled, and were arrested later that day after a manhunt that involved the FBI and State Police.
The shooting forced Vadell into an early retirement at age 30 and intense rehabilitation to regain basic motor skills, leaving him partially paralyzed on his left side.
McCabe was cleared in Damon’s death in January of 2017.
Cross stood up and gestured his handcuffed hands toward the McCabes and Vadells, addressing them by name.
“Coming into this, I was very afraid. I was very afraid. I didn’t understand what happened,” Cross said. “This was a test. For both of us. Courage. Strength. Understanding. And so much more. I hope you got it. I got it.”
The two were found guilty in June, after a two-week long trial.
Chisolm and Cross were also found guilty of aggravated assault, robbery, obstruction, resisting arrest and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and robbery.
An earlier version of this story misstated when Chisholm and Cross were arrested.