Mount Vernon To the Editor:
The fatal shooting death of unarmed Sunday School teacher Patricia Cook of Culpepper by Officer Daniel Harmon-Wright of the Culpepper Police Department on Feb. 9, 2012 has ended with the officer being charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and unlawful shooting into an occupied vehicle. A Culpepper Circuit Court jury recommended a three-year sentence this past Friday. He faced a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. The judge is scheduled to sentence the officer on April 10. He could decrease the jury’s recommended sentence but not increase it.
The victim was in her car in a church parking lot when the officer approached her. When she began driving away, the officer fired at point-blank range into her Jeep and as she drove onto the street he shot five more times killing her.
This case is unusual as the police chief recused himself from the investigation and referred the matter to the Virginia State Police to investigate. In addition, a special prosecutor was appointed. In a highly unusual situation, a special grand jury indicted the officer who was convicted.
In this case, many citizens of Culpepper were pleased the people were represented by the special grand jury which allowed the people to make the decision in this tragic case.