Fatal details: Officer's 7-shot fusillade detailed at hearing

Reports emerging from Culpeper paint a horrifying picture of the last moments in the life of unarmed Sunday school teacher Patricia A. Cook. The 54-year-old motorist was gunned down in her vehicle by a Culpeper Police officer in February.

Cook was first struck by a pair of non-fatal gunshot wounds but then by five more bullets fired from behind her Jeep, one of which hit her brain and another which severed her spinal cord before tearing into her heart and lungs, according to prosecutors, who detailed the grisly information in a filing.

The prosecution revealed that the officer, Daniel Harmon-Wright, eventually arrested and held on murder and firearms charges, had been placed on his department's "Brady List," a roster that law enforcement may keep to name officers known to have lied in their official duties.

The prosecution also revealed that Harmon-Wright joined the Culpeper force over the objections of a sergeant and lieutenant who conducted his background check.

The revelations got a public airing at a preliminary hearing for Harmon-Wright held Friday, June 8. There, he pleaded not guilty to all four 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.

The prosecutor's document revealed that Harmon-Wright had also self-reported some problems with alcohol and had been the subject of discipline over alcohol abuse in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The defense asserted that Cook– who was blamed in an early Virginia State Police press release for driving away with the officer's arm caught in her window– posed a threat both to the officer because she allegedly tried to kill him with her Jeep and to the public because she began driving while her forward view was obscured by a windshield-covering sunscreen.

"The suspect presented an obvious threat to public safety including a pedestrian who was present and more than one other vehicle coming up the road from the opposite direction, as well as any number of other persons threatened by the suspect's use of her vehicle as a weapon," reads the defense motion.

The defense motion further contended that the officer's fusillade was appropriate because Cook's alleged actions made her a felon.

"The officer assumed an 'isosceles' stance and carefully took aim and eliminated the threat as he had been trained to do," reads the motion, "and under the circumstances quite admirable in that his presence of mind all but eliminated the possibility of collateral damage."

But that's not how James Jennings views the facts. The citizen who collected over 1,000 online signatures on a petition urging officials to move forward in the case after months of inaction, Jennings contends that the defense is "disconnected from reality."

"Maybe she wasn't thinking clearly," concedes Jennings, "but maybe it's hard to think clearly when someone's shooting at you."

The prosecutor noted that about a month before the fatal incident, Harmon-Wright received a reprimand for entering a house with his gun drawn and forcing a teenager to the floor. It turned out he had the wrong teen.

"If they'd suspended him from the force then, then maybe none of this would have happened," says Jennings.

The prosecutor also noted that forensic evidence indicated that the five behind-the-Jeep bullets passed through the rear of the vehicle as well as through the back of the driver's seat and headrest, a fatal volley that appeared to undercut the notion of self-defense. The same might be said for the officer's "distraught" demeanor at the scene which including telling others "that he was going to 'lose his [f]-ing job.'"

Outrage over apparent inaction in the case culminated not only with the citizen petition but also with harsh words from the Sheriff of Albemarle County who uncovered malfeasance in an unrelated Culpeper case.

Harmon-Wright and his mother– charged only with record-tampering as the secretary to the former police chief who hired her son– were arrested May 29 after grand jury indictments. She was immediately released on unsecured bond; he was granted a $100,000 bond at the close of Friday's hearing.

“This community will be safer when he is out,” the Culpeper Star-Exponent quoted the defense lawyer of his client. “You couldn’t have a safer person out there.”

According to the Star-Exponent, Harmon-Wright was freed within a day or two of the hearing.

A month earlier, Patricia Cook's husband, Gary D. Cook, filed a lawsuit against against Harmon-Wright seeking $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

"Culpeper might as well get their checkbook out," says Charlottesville-based former law enforcement official Steven W. Shifflett.

–above story edited for print publication at 10:49am Tuesday, June 12

 

Original online story:

Reports emerging from Culpeper paint a horrifying picture of the last moments in the life of unarmed Sunday school teacher Patricia A. Cook. The 54-year-old motorist was gunned down in her vehicle by a Culpeper Police officer in February.

Cook was first struck by a pair of non-fatal gunshot wounds but then by five more bullets fired from behind her Jeep, one of which hit her brain and another which severed her spinal cord, according to prosecutors, and as detailed in Tweets by NBC29 reporter Henry Graff.

Graff went on to note that the prosecution revealed that the officer, Daniel Harmon-Wright, eventually arrested and held on murder and firearms charges, had been placed on his department's "Brady List," a roster that law enforcement may keep to name officers known to have lied in their official duties.

Another news organization, WJLA television, reported that Harmon-Wright joined the Culpeper force over the objections of a sergeant and lieutenant who conducted his background check.

The revelations came at a preliminary hearing for Harmon-Wright held Friday, June 8. There, he pleaded not guilty to all four 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.

The news organizations reported that the prosecutor mentioned that Harmon-Wright had some problems with alcohol and had been the subject of a reprimand.

The defense asserted that Cook– who was blamed in an early Virginia State Police press release for driving away with the officer's arm caught in her window– posed a threat both to the officer and to the safety of the public, according to Graff.

In the account by the Culpeper Star-Exponent, the defense attorney claimed that Cook engaged in an accelerate-decelerate maneuver designed to harm the officer.

However, the prosecutor noted that the forensic evidence indicated that the five behind-the-Jeep bullets passed through the back of the Jeep as well as through the back of the driver's seat and headrest, a fatal volley that appeared to undercut the notion of self-defense.

Outrage over apparent inaction in the case culminated with an approximately 1,000-signature online petition and harsh words from the Charlottesville law official who uncovered malfeasance in an unrelated Culpeper case.

Harmon-Wright and his mother– charged only with record-tampering– were arrested May 29 after grand jury indictments. She was released on unsecured bond; he was granted a $100,000 bond at the close of Friday's hearing, according to WJLA.

“This community will be safer when he is out,” the Star-Exponent quoted the defense lawyer of his client. “You couldn’t have a safer person out there.”

–developing story; may be updated–-

27 comments

Commonwealth's Memo in Opposition to Bond Motion

http://www.virginialegaldefense.com/WrightCase/CwBondOpposition.pdf

Daniel Hawes, defense counsel for whatever his name is this week (Sullivan, Wright, Harmon-Wright, etc)... ..... 1:48 p.m. today posted the following:

Result: Defendant was admitted to bail, bond set at one hundred thousand dollars. Probably be lots of stuff on TV news this evening and print media this afternoon and tomorrow; a gaggle of newsfaces interrogated me after the hearing. It'll be interesting to see what little bits of what I said get used for the entertainment of the masses.

In the third link I posted, I see nothing but a trigger happy out-of-control rookie, a rookie that never should have been hired in the first place (Culpeper police command admits he never should have been hired). I have been warning people for a long time that this type of rookie is roaming the streets out here. Mr. Sullivan Wright Harmon-Wright is not the only one out here running wild and totally out of control. He's simply one that messed up so badly that the commonwealth can make a very good criminal case against him.

What a sad, sad story. As soon as I read it I knew the office was full of it. Citizen, you do NOT have rights, you are at the will of an undereducated meathead class who is BITTER and ANGRY with their life choices and WILL make your life a living hell, if not end it. Citizen: quit resisting. Citizen: accept your fate. Citizen: comply or we will make you comply.

In an era where the Taser is merely a device of convenience and not a lethal force replacement, in an era where every non-uniform (military or police) wearing member of society is automatically guilty, you cannot afford to question this class or rogue, disgusting individuals.

The sad part is, we pay their salary, we elect their leaders, we allow this to happen. Of course, when you have lobbying groups that are constantly screaming "Won't somebody think of the children!?!" about anyone ever exercising their rights, what can we expect when an untrained militia begins to execute us without cause?

Citizen, you do NOT have rights, you are at the will of an undereducated meathead class who is BITTER and ANGRY with their life choices and WILL make your life a living hell, if not end it. Citizen: quit resisting. Citizen: accept your fate. Citizen: comply or we will make you comply.

New story and handcuffed picture of Sullivan Wright Harmon-Wright. .....

http://blogs.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2012/06/08/culpeper-officer-ple...

I have no sympathy for any officer who does what the commonwealth has stated he did. The perceived threat to his life was over before the fatal shots were fired. What possibly could have been going through his head. Culpeper might as well prepare to pay Mr. Cook a very large sum of money.

It appears the police dept put an unstable person with poor judgement out in the public with a gun and the authority to use it . A competant police officer would most assuredly have had a satisfactory resolution to this call . This fellow didn't . Was it really murder ? He was legally entitled to use a weapon . He being alone has the authority of when and where to use firearms against a citizen . There is a witness claiming he gave warning that he would shoot if she did not stop. Having limited skills for police work perhaps he is not rational enough to realize that the warning should be just that . Not taken literally . The misconduct appears to be with the department in letting someone as this fellow have the trust and responsibility of the citizens . He will likely claim the lady was using the Jeep as a weapon against him and he was concerned she would use it against others . Perhaps that was the frame of his faulty thinking at the time of shooting her from behind. Grizzly situation for sure from any perspective .

just to play devil's advocate, firing from the rear may not seem like self-defense, but most vehicles do have a reverse gear...

@mightyhorse----think it might be a little difficult to put a Jeep in reverse and press the gas pedal when your spinal cord has been severed and you have been shot in the brain and can feel bullet fragments entering your lung and heart? just sayin...

The third link I posted will no longer work --Commonwealth's Memo in Opposition to Bond Motion - removed due to inclusion of statutorily prohibited information that should have been redacted out prior to filing

The story line is that the deceased was an unarmed Sunday School teacher but the defense claims she was using her vehicle as a deadly weapon . Big difference . The key point is who was using a weapon first to harm the other . Was the officer justified in firing the first shot ? If yes then the subsequent shots would be part of the justified action to subdue the agressor. Police shoot for effect not just to make noise . It seems apparent this person was not suited for the police duties . He ,however,unfortunately was covered by the full authority that comes with the position. In the final analysis regarding these charges benefit of doubt will be accorded to him .The mother and the chief are the real culprits for turning this obviously unsuited person out into the public equipped with legal deadly force.

The officer's defense attorney reminds me of the "liar" character played by Jon Lovitz on the old (and more relevant) Saturday Night Live. On a more germane note, this story gets uglier and uglier as more is revealed. Were the City of Culpeper, the officer's mother and then-Chief Boring included as def. in the lawsuit?

R.I.P.: John Africa (On 'Da MOVE)

The lawsuit is posted on this link...

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2012/05/patricia-cook-shooting-husband-file...

It only lists the officer at this time.

Anybody who missed the information in the third link I posted at the begining of this discussion (Commonwealth's Memo in Opposition to Bond Motion), the full text can now be found at this link if you scroll down a short distance......

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2012/06/daniel-harmon-wright-pleads-not-gui...

GSOE - thanks for the links - useful information.

You're welcome.

Some of that information wasn't suppose to be on the Internet. It's been removed on most sites. If you ever want to read it again in the future during a debate with anybody, you might want to go over to the most recent link I posted and save it as a PDF file.

@tjeff ... The article said the two wounds you described were from the shots that came from behind. Which means the vehicle could have already been backing towards the officer. Regardless, I'm not saying that's what happened. Just saying one shouldn't conclude the vehicle was fleeing simply b/c the shots came from the rear.

To the folks bringing up the 'could have been in reverse' bull, don't forget the eye witness account that the car wasn't in a speedy reverse in the worst attempt to kill a cop of all time. Also, don't forget that the car rolled into a utility pole. It rolled forward into the pole. The car was going forward when he murdered her. That's fairly apparent beyond discussion. On another note, what the heck is wrong with Culpeper? I will NEVER stop my car there. If a cop is trying to pull me over in Culpeper, I'll drive to the next county after calling the next county's police department, because Culpeper police clearly need real police supervision to do their job. Culpeper, a place to be murdered or have murder charges trumped up to put you away for life. Real nice place. It is no wonder people call it 'Little Syria'.

It took 4 months for state police to figure out it probably isn't legal to go all gang-land on a citizen when you eye witness accounts and an inexperienced cop with substance abuse problems? Seems like state police are getting their training from the Culpeper police department.

Can anyone shine some light on what the 'record tampering' charge was for against his mother? What does she have to do with this? It must have been something extremely blatant and obvious, you know, since the state police were able to puzzle that one together.

I knew Dan Sullivan very well when he was in the Marines. We were in the same company for a couple years. We hung out in the same group. I did not like him much, he had some serious self confidence issues and just sucked at life in general (which is why we nicknamed him "the suck")I certainly never saw him as a murderer though.

@Mr. Joshua...Based on what I have read in the media, the tampering charges against the mother were not related to the shooting. They were from (at least) the time the officer was hired. His mother was the admin assistant to the chief at the time (Mr. Boring, who is now a Culpeper town councilman). Sullivan actually failed the psych exam and a sergeant and lieutenant who were on the hiring panel recommended he be rejected; then-Chief Boring overruled on that and hired him anyway. Among other things, Sullivan admitted to heavy alcohol consumption while he was a Marine and actually told interviewers that he had driven while drunk about three months prior to the interviews.

Those are some of the reasons I wonder if Mr. Cook's attorneys will also sue Boring, the council and the department (i.e., the town of Culpeper) for this gross negligence.

R.I.P.: John McSherry

Oh, and that wrist looked at Mr. Joshua

R.I.P.: Bobby Troup

Liberalace, there will be 5 or 6 more names added to the lawsuit down the road. You can bet your last dime on that. You can't blood out of a Turnip Daniel Sullivan Harmon-Wright.

I've edited this story for print publication by moving from journalist tweets to the actual court documents for most of my sourcing and by adding a couple of citizen comments.--hawes spencer

“This community will be safer when he is out,” the Culpeper Star-Exponent quoted the defense lawyer of his client. “You couldn’t have a safer person out there.”

The scary part is the LAWYER goes home and sleeps after this comment .

The lawyer can sleep soundly with the knowledge that Dan is not back on the job "protecting " the public .