Two men will be sentenced in the County Court of Victoria this year after shooting at a police car while officers “bunkered” in a Melbourne McDonald’s restaurant.
Joel Papa and Cruz Noonan each pleaded guilty to offences relating to the shootout, but their lawyers argued they should be sentenced in the lower Melbourne Magistrates Court.
That argument was rejected on Friday by Magistrate Hayley Bate, who said their crimes were “extremely serious” and should be heard by a higher judge.
On August 13, 2019, police were patrolling Sunbury in Melbourne’s outer northwest when shots were fired at their vehicle about 3.15am.
The officers took refuge in Sunbury McDonald’s while waiting for backup.
While the officers were inside the restaurant, further shots were fired at their car before it was rammed.
Papa and Noonan then returned to the McDonald’s and drove past the crime scene while “taunting police officers”, Ms Bate said.
She said the McDonald’s employees were “undoubtedly terrified” as Papa and Noonan shot at the police car and rammed it in the carpark.
She said they had “absolutely no regard for the welfare of other members of the community”.
“The intention was clear in my view – it was to rattle the police and cause fear,” she said.
She said both men were on bail for serious offences at the time, and Papa had a “history of antagonising police”.
She said Papa, 28, who is in custody, had an intellectual disability.
Noonan’s bail was extended on conditions including that the 19-year-old remain residing at a faith-based rehabilitation centre in Hoppers Crossing.
Papa pleaded guilty on Friday to committing an indictable offence while on bail, driving while disqualified, damaging an emergency vehicle by driving, discharging a firearm in a public place, and negligently dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Noonan pleaded guilty to damaging an emergency service vehicle by driving, possessing ammunition without a licence, driving while unlicensed, committing an indictable offence while on bail, possessing a general category handgun, and discharging a firearm in a public place.
A third man, Mate Vulic, previously pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice and possessing a trafficable quantity of firearms and will face the County Court for a plea hearing in April.
It is understood he was not present at the shooting but was charged in relation to it.
Noonan and Papa will appear in the County Court for a plea hearing on May 24.