Downstate man gets 4.5 years for assaulting officer on Jan. 6, still faces murder charges in Skokie woman’s death

Chicago
By Chicago 7 Min Read

A federal judge handed a 4 1/2-year prison sentence Wednesday to a man who assaulted a U.S. Capitol police officer and a cameraman on Jan. 6, 2021, claimed he had not paid taxes on his $150,000 annual income since 2017, and is separately charged with the murder of a Skokie woman.

The feds say Shane Woods has exhibited a “deadly indifference to human life.” They called his actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot “as cowardly as they were violent and opportunistic.”

And they said his alleged behavior in November 2022, leading to the wrong-way Interstate 55 crash downstate that killed Lauren Wegner and injured two others, was “monstrous.”

Woods’ defense attorney simply explained in a brief court memo that Woods has struggled with poor decision-making, exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse.

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Woods was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C. The sentence is the stiffest handed down so far to an Illinois resident charged in connection with the Capitol attack.

The prosecution of Woods, from Auburn, began as one of the more serious of those cases. The feds announced in June 2021 that he was the first person to be arrested for assaulting a member of the news media during the riot.

But his case turned tragic two months after he pleaded guilty in September 2022 to assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers, as well as a related charge. On Nov. 8, 2022, Woods was stopped in his truck by a Divernon police officer for driving 101 mph north on I-55.

After the officer approached Woods’ truck, Woods allegedly told the officer he didn’t care what the officer did because he was “looking at 10 years” and wouldn’t wind up paying any ticket. He allegedly said he was “done,” was “going to end it” and would not be serving any jail time, mentioning a potential prosecution for tax evasion. 

The officer went back to his patrol car to alert his supervisor. When he tried to return to Woods’ truck, he realized Woods had started the engine. Woods allegedly put the truck in drive, sped away, drove north into the southbound lanes of I-55 through an exit ramp and caused a fiery multi-car crash.

Lauren Wegner

Lauren Wegner

Provided

The crash killed Wegner, who had been on her way to visit friends in St. Louis. A 61-year-old man suffered spinal disc injuries in his neck and back, among other injuries, records show. His 54-year-old wife suffered a brain bleed, a head wound requiring 50 stitches, and a broken back.

Woods was charged with first-degree murder in Sangamon County. Court records show he faces trial in that case in January. Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C. pointed to those allegations as they sought a stiff sentence of nearly six years for Woods.

They also noted that Woods told a probation officer he earned $150,000 a year from his business, Auburn Heating and Air, but had not paid taxes since 2017.

At the heart of Woods’ federal prosecution is his assault on two people during the Capitol riot. Prosecutors say Woods anticipated the violence as early as September 2020, when then-President Donald Trump told members of the far-right Proud Boys group during a presidential debate to “stand back and stand by.” 

The next day, Woods allegedly texted a friend that “us proud boys are his civilian militia in case violence starts. He knows we’re on his side.”

In the week after the November 2020 presidential election, Woods allegedly texted conspiracy theories to friends, including that “Dems fell for the trap” which involved Trump watermarking “the real” ballots.

On Jan. 4, 2021, Woods allegedly texted a friend that he was thinking about going to Washington, D.C. Woods allegedly encouraged the friend to join him and predicted, “It’s going to be biblical.” He also allegedly wrote, “I know dc is gun free. I’m bringing blade.”

The feds say Woods and that friend attended a rally near the Washington Monument on Jan. 6, 2021 and then marched with others onto restricted U.S. Capitol grounds. At 2:10 p.m., outside the northwest exterior wall of the grounds, officers wearing riot gear tried to contain a mob. 

Eventually, an officer ran full speed after someone who had sprayed her with what was likely bear spray. Woods lowered his shoulder and rammed into the officer during her pursuit, knocking her off her feet and sending her crashing into a bicycle barricade. 

Prosecutors say the assault left the officer in an “immensely vulnerable position: facedown, injured, alone, and surrounded by a hostile mob.” They also said that, even though Woods’ friend didn’t realize it was Woods who knocked the officer down, he realized things were getting out of hand and left the Capitol grounds.

Meanwhile, Woods committed a second assault hours later on a Reuters cameraman. The cameraman had tried to walk away from a staging area that was being overcome by rioters, records show. Prosecutors say Woods hit the cameraman with his shoulder, but the cameraman continued walking. 

That’s when Woods took a running start and hit the cameraman with a blindside shoulder-tackle. The feds say the cameraman never saw Woods coming and was knocked off his feet. His head hit the grass, only inches away from stone, prosecutors said.

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