The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Police, witness differ on shooting
By DONNIE JOHNSTON
The Virginia State Police account of the circumstances surrounding the shooting of a Culpeper woman by a town police officer differs dramatically from that of an eyewitness to the Thursday morning incident.
In a Friday press release, the state police investigative unit stated that the unidentified officer had his arm caught in Patricia Cook’s Jeep Wrangler window when he shot the 54-year-old woman.
The release said that the officer was attempting to check Cook’s identification when she rolled up the window, catching his arm. It added that she then began to drive away, dragging the policeman.
However, Kris Buchele, who viewed the entire incident from the upstairs window in an adjoining house where he was working, tells a different story.
Buchele, who is a painting contractor, said he was working in an upstairs room when he heard loud shouting, which prompted him to go to one of the large windows in the older home.
“The cop had his gun out and his other hand on the door handle like he was trying to open it,” Buchele told The Free Lance–Star less than two hours after the shooting. “The car started moving and he said, ‘Stop or I’ll shoot!’ Just as the woman rolled the window up, the cop shot. I saw the window bust out.”
In an interview with WRC–TV Friday, Buchele twice repeated his assertion that the officer’s arm was not caught in the window when the car started moving.
That statement directly contradicts the state police assertion that the officer was being dragged and was in fear of his life when he fired his service weapon.
In addition, Patricia Cook’s husband, Gary Dean Cook, told MyFoxdc.com News that his wife’s car did not have power windows.
Meanwhile, those who knew Cook cannot believe that the easygoing woman could have done anything to cause a police officer to fear for his life.
“I don’t see her doing anything to provoke [the incident],” said Tonya Searsoss, a close neighbor in the Friendship Heights subdivision where the Cooks live. “There was not a mean bone in her body. She was very sweet. My kids loved to talk to her.”
Eastern View High School Activities Director Mark Settle said he knew Cook because they both went to the same church, Culpeper United Methodist.
“She liked to work in the kitchen and she was very fanciful when she baked her cakes and cookies,” Settle said. “I think she sometimes sang in the choir.”
Two days after the shooting there are many more questions than answers. Why was Cook, who according to published reports had never been in trouble with the law, parked in the Epiphany Catholic School parking lot on East Street?
Why did school officials consider her a suspicious person and call the police?
Why did Cook roll up the car window and start to drive away?
Why did the officer feel it necessary to fire as many as seven rounds at a woman who had no weapon and lived in an apartment complex less than two miles away?
These are questions that have been repeated over and over again by Culpeper residents since the shooting occurred.
With the incident still under investigation, the state police are giving no answers.
The officer involved, who was reportedly slightly injured in the incident, has been placed on routine administrative leave.