A Culpeper police officer is free on $100,000 bond after pleading not guilty to murder and gun charges.
Media outlets report that 32-year-old Daniel Harmon-Wright entered his plea Friday in Culpeper County Circuit Court.
A grand jury indicted Harmon-Wright May 29.
Police have said Harmon-Wright was responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle in a church parking lot when he fatally shot 54-year-old Patricia A. Cook on Feb. 9.
Police have claimed Cook dragged the officer.
“She cut the wheels really sharp to try to run over him with the rear wheels and executed a left turn on to a public street, all the time with a sunscreen up in her windshield,” defense attorney Daniel Hawes said.
That made Cook a felon who posed a threat to others, Hawes said. His client’s actions were then justified.
“If you don’t need to take someone’s life to save your own, then the homicide you commit is unjustified,” special prosecutor Jim Fisher said. “And if it’s unjustified, the question is, What type of homicide is it? Is it murder or manslaughter? The grand jury here has elected to charge murder.”
Harmon-Wright fired seven shots, Fisher said during Friday’s hearing. Two shots were fired at the driver's side window and the others were fired behind as Cook drove away. The fatal shots hit Cook in the head and back.
Arguing against bond, Fisher painted a picture of a man with a history of drinking problems who was hired as a police officer over the objections of police brass.
The judge was convinced to allow bond by Harmon-Wright swearing under oath that he no longer possesses any firearms and that he had only gotten drunk once since the shooting in order to deal with the stress.
Harmon-Wright’s mother also has been charged. She’s accused of seeking to purge her son’s personnel file of disparaging material. She was a secretary for the police chief at the time of the shooting.
Harmon-Wright had been on administrative leave with pay, but he was suspended without pay immediately upon the indictment.