A local family is distraught after learning the man who killed an officer more than 40 years ago could be released from prison in several years.
U.S. Park Police Officer Raymond Hawkins was trying to thwart a robbery of a 7-11 in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on Dec. 23, 1971 when Charles Hopkins shot him from behind.
Hawkins died weeks later on Feb. 15, 1972.
"It's just a tragedy," said Hawkins' cousin Doug Bottamiller.
Hopkins was sentenced to life without parole, but he was recently awarded a new trial because of a flawed jury instructions. More than 100 other cases in Maryland have been affected by the same issue.
"We were devastated, again, it was something that we just could not believe," Bottamiller said.
Hopkins, now 64 years old, pleaded guilty to the murder this week and was sentenced to serve 65 years. Bottamiller said Hopkins apologized in court.
"It was surreal. Totally surreal."
Hawkins' relatives say Hopkins could be eligible for parole in five years.
The U.S. Park Police union said in a statement, "While the men and women of the U.S. Park Police do not like this arrangement, it was the best that could be expected, given the circumstances.'
"We'll always now be wondering and watching our back. You just don't know. People are crazy," Bottamiller said.