Indicted: Officer who pumped bullets into motorist charged

It took nearly four months for the case to reach this point, but a grand jury has handed down a multi-count murder indictment against Daniel Harmon-Wright, the Culpeper town police officer who pumped as many as six rounds into an unarmed Sunday school teacher in February.

The case drew howls of outrage after one or more witnesses came forward to dispute the Virginia State Police account of the incident, that Harmon-Wright fired only to protect himself when the motorist, Patricia Cook, supposedly trapped his arm in the window of her Jeep. Instead, a witness alleged that Harmon-Wright threatened to shoot Cook and then did shoot her and continued to shoot her as she drove away.

The incident occurred in a church school parking lot on February 9.

Culpeper is the same town whose officials engaged in "outrageous misconduct" to convict a young man named Michael Hash of capital murder in a 1996 killing. Hash was released on unsecured bond March 14, two days after embattled Culpeper Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Close resigned over his handling of the case.

A special prosecutor, the Commonwealth's Attorney of neighboring Fauquier County, was brought in to investigate the case. He presented the matter to a grand jury which came back, according to a press release, with the following charges: murder, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle resulting in a death, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

“Without commenting on the particulars of the investigation," that prosecutor, Jim Fisher, says in a release, "over the course of the month of May, this special investigative grand jury heard from more than 45 witnesses, received more than 100 separate exhibits and were presented with reams of documentary evidence."

A press conference at State Police headquarters in Culpeper occurred on the evening of Tuesday, May 29. There, Fisher was asked to comment on State Police press release which originally characterized the case as self defense and which alleged that the officer shot because his arm was trapped in the Jeep's window and he was getting dragged.

"The terms 'trapped' and 'dragged' are not terms that I would have used," Fisher says in a newspaper's video of the discussion. "That was a very early stage of the investigation," said Fisher. "Perhaps it wasn't vetted as well as it could have been."

After Cook's husband filed a $5.35 million civil lawsuit, a woman came forward in a television news broadcast to claim that she'd once been roughed up by Harmon-Wright.

"If they had done something about him in the past, maybe [Cook] would be here today," that woman, Jeanette Price, says in an on-camera interview with WJLA.

A shocker from the press conference was the confirmation that Harmon-Wright’s mother, Bethany P. Sullivan of Orange, was also charged in the investigation: three counts of forgery of public documents and three counts of passing such documents, aka "uttering." It turns out that Sullivan formerly served as secretary to a prior Culpeper chief of police, and allegedly attempted to doctor the contents of her son's personnel file, according to prosecutor Fisher.

Unlike her son, who is being held without bond, the 55-year-old Sullivan was released on unsecured bond after her Tuesday night arrest, according to a release.

"I'm grateful for the work of the honest men and women of the Special Grand Jury and the Special Prosecutor," says James Jennings, the Culpeper man who created a citizen petition seeking resolution in the case. By the time of the indictment, he noted on his Justice for Patricia Cook Facebook page that he was just 13 signatures away from his goal of 1,000 citizen signees.

"Hopefully," Jennings says via online comment, "the trial will be fair and unbiased and present an accurate picture of what happened on February 9."

–story lengthened with final seven paragraphs at 11:57am Wednesday, May 30

Read more on: patricia ann cook


Any more word on this douchebag using multiple aliases?

I wonder how long the perp would be hanging out a free man/woman had the roles been reversed in this shooting .

The Police State seems to work at a snails pace when the crook also wears a BADGE .

Looks Like the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

"Bethany Sullivan, Harmon-Wright's mother, was also charged in connection with the case. The 55-year-old Orange, Va. woman is accused of forging public records to get negative information out of her son's personnel file. Sullivan was a secretary for the Chief of Police until 2010."

I think the explanation(s) for using so many different names will come out in evidence as the trials proceed. This has been a strange case from day 1.

Several years ago the mother of this cop (Bethany Sullivan) spoke out on people owning guns and somebody eventually getting shot. She said she didn't want to be there when it took place. I bet Patricia Cook didn't want to be there either.

This was not this cops first instance of losing control of his temper, and that's why his mother was busy removing the incriminating evidence from his personnel file. They knew he was a loose cannon and had apparently let him slide, sound familiar, remember the cop who recently shot his ex-wife at a local Sheetz. The lawsuit will be only be a matter of how much $, and it will be huge. His sentence, if convicted will be long. The damage to his department's credibility ?????.

Cops and criminals are often two sides of the same coin. Many psychopaths/sociopaths gravitate to law enforcement (and the military) as it provides them an arsenal of free weapons, defense training, and what they perceive to be unlimited power over others. It's a psychopath's dream. Can you imagine being a deviant psychopath, being handed your own top of the line loaded hand gun, baton, taser, mace, AND your own squad car on top of it? That comes complete with mounted shot gun? And then being given a pat on the back and a smile by your superior to get out there and go have at it?


For the last 6 weeks, our web page and petition have been calling for an indictment or full release of of the evidence, so that Culpeper residents and visitors can have some sense of peace and safety. We've now seen the first step in restoring peace to our little town. I'm grateful for the work of the honest men and women of the Special Grand Jury and the Special Prosecutor. Hopefully, the trial will be fair and unbiased and present an accurate picture of what happened on February 9. Once the trial is completed, it is my expectation that the town and police leadership will hold a public postmortem to review all policies, issues of training and hiring, to determine if any improvements can be made, mistakes can be changed, in order to prevent this from ever happening again. There are some in our community who are fighting this tooth and nail. Let's continue to hope that the grown ups will prevail and there will be professional accountability. We continue to pray for all involved.

I just updated the story with comment on the early press release, word of the mom's arrest, and with comment from the citizen petitioner.--hawes spencer

Kate 'Ma' Barker and her violent sons would be proud of this mother and son team working the other side of law enforcement.

This investigation took about 16 weeks. During that time a special prosecutor had to be appointed, a grand jury subpoenaed and seated, and many items of evidence collected and analyzed, witnesses tracked down etc. All the while there were some that screamed that it was taking too long. Well, I would say the VSP, the SGJ, and the special prosecutor did their job and did it in a timely fashion not a rushed uninformed one. Now it will be in the hands of a jury to decide.

Would have made FAR more sense if some of the community just made the out-of-control PIG just simply "disappear". And it's mammy too.

Would it have taken 16 weeks if the murder was committed by anyone other than a cop?
I don't think so, why did they release an official version that was nothing more than this now soon to be ex-cop/future inmate's lie.

Couldn't he have simply used the pistol handle to break the glass if the jeep window was restraining him ? That would have been a safer option for himself than shooting the driver whose foot could have clamped down on the gas pedal while also losing stering ability.

Particularly since 9/11 the police have been given carte blanche to use overwhelming force in any and all situations. You are all at risk whenever stopped by one of Albemarle County's brave band of shaved headed cops. You may think you're all decent law abiding citizens and it couldn't happen to you, but it could and you too could find yourself tased, beaten, verbally abused, and then charged with half a dozen made up charges with only one rape you legally and make sure you're too busy defending yourself in a rigged court to ever be able to see the truth emerge. This woman's case is not unique in any detail other than that the truth is coming out..a rarity.

boooo! - you are partially correct however, I suspect you never have served your country at all. As one who is married to a former Marine, I can tell you that most are in due to the service they feel they should provide this nation. 16 weeks of total hell on Paris Island to become a Marine is not just about weapons, they must learn the entire history of the Corps and it isn't the physical but the metal that is the hardest part.

Yes, they are two sides of a coin and many times if it wasn't for the military instilling the values they would in turn become criminals. As for those that are former military and commit crimes, The USMC has turned it's back on many of them as have many other of the branches of the armed services. They don't make criminals, just as if you blame a school for it, you shouldn't blame the military or a curtain career path. In fact, it would probably do all of society a favor by giving judges the authority again to dismiss first time offenders (non-violent crimes) if they would sign a 4 or 6 year contract to go into the military and obtain the dicipline they lacked in their lives! This practice was done many years ago, why not now?

Toni H. - you are bashing Albemarle County PD? This is about Culpeper PD and the issues there. With 9/11 we do need to be a bit more pro-active and truly, if you don't break the law, why would they stop you? Please site the incidents of Albemarle County PD - because it was an Albemarle County Sherif who has spoken out on this case and others too. What did you do? A bit of being overtly defensive there in your comment.

CVille Native, while the Albemarle County police have a lot of fine officers, they also scraped the bottom of the barrel in hiring a few somehow. And it now appears to be getting worse. Toni H is not far off base with his/her comments. You have to remember, this is the department that falsely arrested me for impersonating a Greene County deputy sheriff. They then claimed Sheriff William Morris was lying when he confirmed my affiliation with the Greene County Sheriff's Office. What took place during my false arrest, and after my false arrest, is the type of things that Toni H speaks of. I had the desire, time and energy to seek justice as I sued them for the false arrests, even though all they had to do was issue a public statement that their rookie made a mistake (which they refused to do). Took seven years in the court system to get my justice and clear my name.

Toni H knows what he/she is talking about.

After all of the above, a now former officer of the same department went to the Post Office and attempted to have my brother fired. It backfired in his face when a federal arbitrator called the cop a liar in writing.

When another brother refused to let them fingerprint his juvenile son, they went to the file cabinet, pulled out an unsolved crime, and charged my brother. While he was being booked and bonded, they then fingerprinted the juvenile child without permission. Instead of investigating the case and developing a suspect, they wanted kids in the neighborhood to prove their innocence by submitting to fingerprints. Most parents agreed to this violation of their rights, a few didn't.

Gasbag, you know facts get in the way of hero worship, especially when it's worship of themselves. Why do these guys feel they can abuse their authority? It's because they" know" they can. Any and every citizen who stands up to ANY police abuse is labeled a criminal, or soft on crime, like the poster who stated " if you don't break the law, why would they stop you". I know many of the officers serving in this area because I spent over 20 years in uniform and trained many of them in CQB before they ever became cops. I also know more than a few that have absolutely no business with a badge and a gun, that cannot be trusted to be alone with your teenage daughter, but somehow these guys managed to get hired on, most likely because their military service records were not as closely scrutinized as they should have been.

Guardian, I was another forum a few minutes ago reading about the Culpeper murder by cop, and this is what was posted..... "I don't want to instigate a How to hire a Cop" thread, but something to think about....not discuss...... if you hire someone based on an IQ test rather than actual abilities, you generally get someone that had a jock tied over his head and thrown out of the locker room naked, on a regular basis in high school. That type is looking at professionalism spelled..PAYBACK."

Don't the citizens and taxpayers realize that this is exactly what is going on in police departments now and for the last 20 years?

@GSOE-- I'm not understanding your post. Are you saying that police departments are hiring based on intelligence and that those candidates are going into police work because they've been bullied? I always assumed that the bully cops were the bullies or jocks in high school, not the nerds who were abused. Perhaps I'm interpreting your post incorrectly. Care to elaborate?

@Guardian-- thanks for the insight. I find it tragic that the many good officers won't stand up to the few bad ones. I guess they don't understand that weak way of handling things tarnishes the entire profession.

I knew several that went into law enforcement right out of high school/community college and I know why. They simply could not face the reality of their existence in this world without a gun, and a badge for their own self-protection and sense of self-worth to the point of being narcissist. They apparently lacked the nerve for the armed services in combat arms, and some just had a serious case of little mans disease. I don't condemn the profession itself, but it is one where self regulation has proven itself to fail repeatedly. I'm tired of the lame excuse that it was just one bad apple. It is always more than one that knew this guy was in the ranks, and always more than one that did absolutely nothing about it. There needs to be real civilian oversight of every police department, and sheriffs office, because most will not adequately police themselves, and this is proven every single day in this country.

Sabbath Lilly, most law enforcement agencies put a special emphasis on hiring those with college degrees. This started around 20 years ago. In order to accept those with college degrees they also had to redraft the physical requirements such as height and weight. They also had to lower physical requirements so as to hire females. This is why you will often see a police car and wonder if anybody is even driving it, some of them (male and female) can't even see over the dashboard. I think height and weight, or lack of, also explains why cops can no longer handle suspects physically and end up shooting and killing so many people.

Police work is not rocket science. You don't need mensa candidates to know what they can and can't do out on the streets.

In reference to your other question, I think they are hiring both the bullies and the one who were bullied. The bullies will now use their badge and gun to bully anybody they can get by with. Those who were bullied..... well the quote I imported above explained them quite well..... "generally someone that had a jock tied over his head and thrown out of the locker room naked, on a regular basis in high school. This type of cop is looking at professionalism spelled..PAYBACK." For the first time in their life they can exercise total control over people. It's a new high in their life. And it feels good.

On a recent plane trip, I sat next to someone involved in HR for the Columbia, SC, police dept. She said that they do lots of screening before candidates even get sent to police academy--psych tests, lie detector tests, etc.--precisely to weed out the George Zimmerman/vigilante/sociopath types. Some still slip through the cracks, though.

Pump a few into that homo.