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Culpeper officer indicted for murder in woman’s shooting

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BY DONNIE JOHNSTON

A special investigative grand jury Tuesday handed down a murder indictment against the Culpeper town policeman who shot and killed a 54-year-old unarmed woman on Feb. 9.

Thirty-two-year-old Daniel Harmon–Wright, aka Daniel Wayne Sullivan, aka Dan Wayne, turned himself in to Prince William County authorities Tuesday night near his home in Gainesville, sources said.

According to the Virginia State Police, Harmon–Wright has been charged with one count of murder, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle resulting in a death and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The charges stem from  an incident shortly before 10 a.m. in a parking lot in front of Epiphany Catholic preschool on  East Street in which Patricia A. Cook was shot and killed.

The officer had responded to a “suspicious person” call from the preschool staff, and a confrontation with Cook reportedly took place.

The state police, who initially investigated the incident, issued a statement the day after the shooting saying that Cook had rolled up her car window, which caught the officer’s arm and caused him to be dragged.

Cook’s husband said later that the Jeep had no power windows.

Other aspects of that initial state police statement also quickly came into dispute.

A witness in a nearby house said he saw Harmon–Wright with his service pistol in one hand and his other hand on the  Jeep Wrangler’s door handle.

The witness also stated that he heard Harmon–Wright yell, “Stop or I’ll shoot!” twice and then saw him fire point blank through Cook’s driver’s side window as she drove away.

Sources have said that Cook  was struck in the head.

The witness said Harmon–Wright, an Iraq War veteran, continued to fire his weapon as Cook’s vehicle rolled slowly south on East Street before finally coming to a stop against a utility pole.

Cook was struck several times, according to sources, and pronounced dead at the scene.

Shortly after the incident, Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Fisher was appointed as a special prosecutor, and in early April, he requested a special investigative grand jury to handle the matter.

That grand jury met at least three times before Tuesday, including last Thursday.

“Without commenting on the particulars of the investigation, over the course of the month of May, this special investigative grand jury heard from more than 45 witnesses, received more than 100 separate exhibits and were presented with reams of documentary evidence,” Fisher said in a statement Tuesday night.

In addition, the special investigative grand jury also handed down three counts of uttering and three counts of forgery of public documents against Harmon-Wright’s mother, Bethany P. Sullivan, 55, of Orange.

Through the course of the special grand jury’s investigation, a Virginia State police press release noted, evidence came to light concerning  Sullivan’s role in forging public records in an attempt to purge Harmon-Wright’s personnel file of negative information.

Sullivan was employed as an administrative secretary to the chief of police at the time of Harmon-Wright’s hiring as a police officer. Sullivan left the police department in 2010.

Sullivan was taken into custody without incident late Tuesday night. Sullivan was released on an unsecured bond of $5,000 on each count.

Although the shooting incident took place in Culpeper, Harmon–Wright is being held in the Fauquier  Adult Detention Center.

Harmon–Wright is being held without bond. A bond hearing will be held June 8.

On May 11, Cook’s husband, Gary Cook, filed a $5.35 million civil wrongful death suit against Harmon–Wright.

Cook’s attorneys have  also informed town officials that they should also expect future civil legal action.

Harmon–Wright had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.

But Mayor Chip Coleman said in a statement Tuesday night that the officer has now been suspended without pay.

Donnie Johnston:

djohnston@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2012/05/29/culpeper-officer-charged-in-womans-shooting/