It's been 18 months since a mentally disturbed teen fatally wounded two officers at the Sully District Police Station with weapons illegally purchased by his father.
Friday morning in federal court, that father — Brian Harold Kennedy, 50, of Centreville — was sentenced to three years, four months in prison for crimes relating to his son's actions.
But first, Suzanne Garbarino, widow of MPO Mike Garbarino, one of the victims, took the stand and verbally blasted Kennedy in her first, public statement since the tragedy.
"I hope, Mr. Kennedy, when you are sentenced today, that the judge gives you the maximum allowed by law — and then some," she said. "There isn't a day that goes by that [my daughters] Katie, Natalie and I don't feel the horrible pain that your son, the murderer, inflicted upon our family."
On May 8, 2006, around 3:40 p.m., Kennedy's son Michael, 18, carjacked a van and drove into the rear lot of the police station. Unarmed, Garbarino was inside his cruiser after his shift when, from a few yards away, the teenager fired more than 20 rounds at him with an AK-47 rifle.
Garbarino was struck five times, but managed to radio other officers about the attack. Det. Vicky Armel, heading to her cruiser to respond to the carjacking, exchanged gunfire with Kennedy, diverting his attention from Garbarino.
BUT A BULLET from Kennedy's 30.06-caliber rifle pierced her ballistic vest and struck her in the chest. Armel, 40, died at the scene; Garbarino, 53, succumbed to his injuries nine days later. Both left spouses and children.
Armed with five handguns, an AK-47 assault weapon, a high-powered rifle and more than 300 rounds of ammunition, Kennedy fired 70 rounds-plus before other officers killed him.
That night, police executed a search warrant at Kennedy's home at 6200 Prince Way, seizing an arsenal of weapons and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition.
Weapons were throughout the Kennedy home. Under the master-bedroom mattress were a Colt 9 mm handgun with one round in the chamber and a leather sheath containing a 9-inch knife. On the nightstand were a bayonet plus high-velocity ammunition for a Remington, semi-automatic shotgun.
A Smith & Wesson knife was under a loveseat cushion in the living room, and both a 12-gauge shotgun and a 22-caliber long rifle stood in a hallway. An M80 explosive rested inside a kitchen cabinet, and a knife was tucked into the ceiling.
After the shooting, Brian Kennedy, his wife and daughter, 9, left their home and went into seclusion. On April 5, nearly a year later, an ATF agent arrested him at a home in Falls Church.
Kennedy later admitted using marijuana for the past decade and, on May 8, 2006, unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition in his home. He also acknowledged storing marijuana there and using it with his son and his son's friends.
On Aug. 7 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, he pleaded guilty to lying to a licensed, firearms dealer about his drug use so he could purchase an AK-47 assault rifle, and unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition as a marijuana user.
AND FRIDAY, in a room packed with police officers — plus family members and friends of Garbarino, Armel and Kennedy — Suzanne Garbarino delivered her statement. Afterward, she said she was nervous on the stand. But, she added, "I knew my husband was right next to me in spirit as I spoke, saying, 'C'mon, you can do it.'"
And she did — chastising Brian Kennedy for hiding out after the crime, instead of helping police piece together what had happened. "The first thing you did was think of yourself, shield yourself from the police, refuse to speak to them and obtain a lawyer," said Garbarino. "Your extreme arrogance and refusal to take responsibility for your actions angers me the most."
She slammed Kennedy for not cooperating with police after "the blood bath your son caused. Instead, you chose to run from it." She also asked him what kind of person would give his son drugs, "knowing the extent of his emotional problems, and keep ... guns scattered around the house for him to have access to? A parent that chose to do the wrong thing."
And while acknowledging that he lost a son, too, Garbarino told Kennedy to never forget that his son was "a cold-blooded murderer, and you chose as a parent to guide him down the wrong road." Quoting Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th), a friend of her husband's, she said, 'Brian Kennedy didn't pull the trigger, but he sure did provide it.'"
DEFENSE ATTORNEY Jonathan Shapiro said his client grieves for everyone who lost a loved one that day. He said the Kennedys were unable to obtain the mental-health treatment their son needed and that "this family was feeling utter desperation about their son, right up to this shooting."
"There was a long, family struggle for them to try to get help for a young man who was quickly spiraling into insanity," said Shapiro. "[Kennedy] was gravely concerned about his son and would often break down at work and sob."
Shapiro said that, in January 2006, Michael complained about severe headaches and engaged in "odd talk." He went to several hospitals for treatment but, according to the attorney, a mental-health evaluation dated May 5, 2006 — three days before the police-station ambush — stated Michael was not a danger to himself or others.
Regarding the guns, Shapiro said Brian Kennedy locked them in a trunk and took the key with him. But on the day of the shooting, his son broke the locks and got the weapons.
But, insisted Shapiro, "Any notion that Brian Kennedy was a reckless monster and gun freak is totally wrong. He had guns in the house because he was raised with them, but he hadn't fired a gun in 10 years."
Calling his client a "good, solid father and husband — just a regular guy," Shapiro said Kennedy was "doing what he could for his son, and he failed. He smoked marijuana — that was his vice."
Asking U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris to sentence Kennedy below the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines of 37-46 months, Shapiro said Kennedy had suffered all the pain he could, and separating him from his wife and young daughter would only add to it.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Trump said the Kennedy family's steps to address Michael's mental-health issues "always fell short. There was always a piece of information that was left out. The hospitals told him he couldn't take medications to help him unless he stopped smoking pot."
SHAPIRO HAD also claimed that Brian Kennedy didn't know his son had access to his guns, but Trump said that wasn't true and witnesses had earlier testified in court about Michael showing off the weapons to his friends.
"The defendant has been engaged in criminal conduct for years," said Trump. "Every time he bought marijuana and shared it with his son and co-workers was a crime. And owning all those guns was illegal."
Stressing that the "measure of a man" is in his actions, Trump said that, after Brian Kennedy's wife called him at work to tell him Michael had broken into his guns, Kennedy went home to look and then returned to work. But he did nothing to notify authorities.
Requesting a 46-month sentence, Trump said, "These guns were used to kill police officers. And even then, the sentence doesn't consider the terrible harm that flowed from [Brian Kennedy's] actions." Trump said that harm calls for a sentence within the guidelines and "justice demands 46 months."
Cacheris selected the midpoint of the guidelines and sentenced Kennedy to 40 months (three years, four months) on each count, running the sentences concurrently. He also placed Kennedy on three years supervised release, ordering him to undergo whatever substance-abuse and mental-health treatment and counseling his probation officer deems necessary.
Afterward, Shapiro said he'll likely appeal the sentence and that Kennedy will blame himself, the rest of his life, for his son's death. Fairfax County Police Chief Dave Rohrer said he respects and supports the court's decision, and he praised the efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office in prosecuting this case.
"WE'RE GLAD this stage of the process is behind us," said former Sully District Police Station Commander Susan Culin. "And we're glad to see Mr. Kennedy being held accountable for his action — or, rather, lack of action."
As for Suzanne Garbarino, she'd "wished higher" — hoping Kennedy would receive a sentence of 51 months. "But I'm OK," she said Friday. "I'm happy he's going to jail today."