Natural cause: Widower of slain motorist found dead
The Culpeper man who lost his wife in a controversial hail of police gunfire has died in mysterious, but perhaps not nefarious, circumstances. Gary D. Cook lived long enough to see the officer charged with murder in the February shooting of Patricia Ann Cook, but he was found dead Tuesday in the apartment he once shared with his late wife.
"It's very sad," notes James Jennings, the citizen who runs the Justice for Patricia Cook Facebook page.
According to an initial release from the Virginia State Police, which is investigating the death, a maintenance person found the body of the 62-year-old man after entering his apartment in the Friendship Heights complex to conduct routine maintenance on Tuesday morning, September 11.
"Preliminary findings," reads a subsequent release, "by the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas determined that he died of natural causes."
The county sheriff’s office was dispatched at 10:29am to investigate the "unattended death" and then contacted the Culpeper field office of the Virginia State Police's criminal division, according to a State Police release.
In television interviews following the February 9 killing of his wife as she drove out of a church parking lot, the soft-spoken Mr. Cook appeared earnest and shaken. Cook later hired the Charlottesville firm of MichieHamlett to wage a wrongful death lawsuit against the officer, Daniel Harmon-Wright.
"Shocked is my first reaction," says Mr. Cook's lawyer, Greg Webb. "Extremely sad would be my next– he's an extremely nice guy."
In late May, Harmon-Wright, who discharged five of his seven shots through the back of Mrs. Cook's Jeep, was charged with murder and three other felonies. In pleadings, he has defended his actions as a reasonable response to a threat to public safety, since Mrs. Cook was allegedly driving with an obscured windshield. His trial has been set for January.
Attorney Webb says that the civil suit will likely continue under a different plaintiff, Patricia Cook's only sibling, a brother who lives in New Jersey. She had no children.
"At this stage of the investigation, it does not appear foul play was a factor in the man’s death," the State Police says in a release. Mr. Cook's body was transported to the office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manasas for an autopsy to take place on Wednesday, September 12. It was that examination that led to the preliminary findings.
–story updated at 12:58pm with slight reorganization and addition of quotations and information from Webb
–story updated again at 2:36pm with preliminary autopsy findings via VSP release; and question mark removed from headline after the words "Natural causes"Read more on: patricia ann cook