Dowagiac park robbery leads to prison

Published 10:24 am Monday, September 21, 2015

While the handgun he used in a hold up at Rotary Park may have been fake, the time that a South Bend man will be spending in a Michigan penitentiary will be all too real.

Nicholas Trevon Waddell

Nicholas Trevon Waddell

Judge Michael Dodge sentenced 21-year-old Nicholas Trevon Waddell to a minimum term of six years in prison, with a maximum term of 20 years, during his appearance in Cass County court Friday morning. Waddell was punished for a single count of armed robbery, a crime that he pleaded guilty to during an earlier appearance in court on July 8.

The charge came as a result of an incident that occurred on June 18, 2014, when Waddell held up a man inside a car driving outside Rotary Park in Dowagiac. The defendant produced a firearm, and, while aiming the weapon at the victim’s midsection, demanded that the man hand over a backpack that Waddell believed contained marijuana.

Unknown to the victim at the time, the handgun that the South Bend man produced was actually an airsoft gun that, although resembling an actual firearm, merely fired nonlethal pellets instead of live ammunition, Dodge said.

“When the car he [the victim] was in started to move, that’s when you admitted that you hit him in the head three or four times with that airsoft gun, in order to rob him of what you thought was his marijuana stash,” Dodge said.

Although the firearm Waddell used in the crime was artificial, the fact that the defendant was able to use it to scare the victim was enough to justify the count of armed robbery, Dodge said.

“I’ve seen [airsoft] guns, I’ve held them, and they look exactly like a semiautomatic pistol,” said Chief Assistant Prosecutor Frank Machnik. “The victim, at the time, when one of these things is being pointed at them, does not have the luxury of determining whether or not it is actually weapon, be it a 9 millimeter or .38 caliber or whatever, that can could actually cause death.”

Despite the severity of his actions that day, Waddell doesn’t have an extensive prior criminal record, said the defendant’s attorney, James Miller.

“I think he has run into a period of his life where Mr. Waddell has been off the rails for a while,” Miller said. “He used to have a pretty good job, from what I understand, but now he’s dealing with marijuana.”

Waddell also spoke on his behalf, apologizing to the victim and saying that his behavior was childlike. He also told the judge that he has experienced several personal tragedies since his arrest, with his sister dying and his brother ending up paralyzed from the waist down after being shot, Waddell said.

“That’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with, ever in my life,” he said. “Me being locked up for so long, I’ve learned so much.”

Waddell was given credit for 88 days already served.