Former Town of Culpeper policeman Daniel Harmon-Wright has been convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of firing into an occupied vehicle. The charges stemmed from an incident in February of 2012 involving motorist Patricia Cook.
She was shot to death in her Jeep Wrangler after an encounter with the police officer in the parking lot of a Catholic school.
Harmon-Wright had claimed self-defense, but the jury appeared to reject that argument, as special prosecutor James Fisher had requested. Fisher asked for a murder conviction, but the jury chose voluntary manslaughter instead.
The 33-year-old former policeman had his bond revoked, and was taken into custody in handcuffs at the end of the court session.
Family members of the victim, who was shot in the head and spine (from the rear), said they were satisfied with the conviction for voluntary manslaughter. Patricia Cook's brother, John Weigler, said the guilty verdict "allows for healing."
"I don't want his life," said the brother referring to the now-fired policeman.
The same jury will assemble Wednesday to determine a sentence for Harmon-Wright. He is facing up to 25 years in prison on the three counts for which he was convicted.
Statement from Mayor Calvin L. "Chip" Coleman:
"The trial is over. The jury has spoken. The whole situation is a tragedy that gripped and, in some cases, divided our community.
We asked for an independent and unbiased investigation into the shooting. The Virginia State Police professionally conducted that investigation. We thank them for their efforts.
A special grand jury listened to evidence and returned indictments against the former Culpeper police officer.
A special prosecutor, without ties to Culpeper, prosecuted the case. Witnesses testified and the jury rendered a verdict.
That is what we as town government asked for, and that is what we got. The system worked.
Now is the time to start the healing process. The men and women of the Culpeper Police Department are hard working and should not be judged by the actions of a former officer."
Statement from Culpeper Police Chief Chris Jenkins:
"The outcome of the trial does not change our mission. We are still devoted to providing the best possible services to our community and in the best way possible.
This was a tragedy and a first for our community and this agency. We are all saddened by this event. We hurt too.
I want to personally thank all those citizens who showed their support during this trying time. It meant so much to our department to know that so many of our citizens did not negatively judge the entire department because of this incident.
The men and women of your police department stand ready to answer the call."
Statement from Acting Town Manager Chris Hively:
"In the last year, the town has experienced some very difficult times, especially this shooting incident. Our town employees will continue to work extra hard to prove to you, our citizens, that we are here providing exceptional services and working to regain any trust that may have been lost during this unfortunate tragedy."