A police officer in Virginia faces a murder charge in the February shooting death of an unarmed motorist.
A grand jury charged Town of Culpeper Police Officer Daniel Harmon-Wright, 32, of Gainesville, Tuesday evening with 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.
“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,” said Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Fisher, the special prosecutor appointed to the case.
“We asked the Virginia State Police for an unbiased and thorough investigation into the Feb. 9, shooting incident involving Officer Daniel Harmon-Wright during which Patricia Cook died," Mayor Chip Coleman said. "We got that from the state police."
Shortly after the Feb. 9 shooting, Virginia State Police said the officer fired his weapon when 54-year-old Patricia Cook rolled her Jeep window up on his arm, drove off and began dragging him in a Catholic school parking lot. He had been investigating a report of a suspicious person, police said.
An eyewitness previously told News4's Pat Collins that the officer had one hand on the door handle and another on his gun.
Gregory Webb, attorney for Patricia Cook's husband, Gary Cook, told News4 Cook had a "manual, roll-up window" and posed no threat to the officer.
In an exclusive interview with News4's Shomari Stone, Gary Cook reacted to the news of the charges. "On one hand, it feels relief. And on the other hand, it's showing me that progress is going on," he said.
The grand jury also indicted Harmon-Wright’s mother, 55-year-old Bethany Sullivan, of Orange, on three counts of uttering and three counts of forgery of public documents. Their investigation revealed her alleged role in attempting to purge negative information from her son’ personnel file. She had been an administrative secretary to the chief of police when her son was hired.
She was arrested without incident Tuesday night and released on $5,000 bond per count.
Frustrated by the pace of the investigation, Gary Cook filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages against the officer earlier this month.
Gary Cook's lawyers also discovered the officer has an alias, Daniel W. Sullivan, so the wrongful death suit lists both names.
Harmon-Wright had been on administrative leave with pay, but he was suspended without pay immediately upon the indictment.