Culpeper Cop Who Shot and Killed Patricia Cook Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

CBS 19CBS 19Daniel Harmon-Wright, the police officer in Culpeper, Virginia, who shot and killed former Sunday school teacher Patricia Cook in February 2012, has been sentenced to three years in prison. This is what the jury recommended upon convicting Harmon-Wright of manslaughter three months ago. According to WJLA, the Cook family will proceed with its lawsuit against Harmon-Wright.

Here's a brief recap of the damage done to Cook by Harmon-Wright: 

The first two rounds, fired at point-blank range, tore into Cook’s face and arm. Another round, fired as Cook was driving away from the shooter, entered her brain. A fourth round severed her spine and veered into her heart, killing her. A telephone pole brought her Jeep Wrangler to a halt. 

The Cook FamilyThe Cook FamilyAnd here's how Harmon-Wright's report about the incident contrasted with an eyewitness account:

[Harmon-Wright claimed] that he was responding to reports of a suspicious woman sitting in her vehicle on the school’s property, and that when he went to take Cook’s license, she rolled up his arm in her Jeep’s window and drove off, dragging the officer and forcing him to shoot.

Kris Buchele, a carpenter who was working near Epiphany on Feb. 9, told WUSA9 the week of the shooting that "[Harmon-Wright] was not dragged and that he shot [Cook] before she drove away"; that "he didn't have his arm caught because the officer's left hand was on the door handle and right hand was holding a weapon"; that "he distinctly saw her roll up the window all the way before the officer shot out the glass and killed her."

As I've written before, this could've been avoided if Harmon-Wright had been properly screened for the job: 

Soon after Harmon-Wright was arrested, it was revealed that he had a tarnished military record, a drinking problem, and a history of harassing Culpeper residents. The first two problems nearly kept him from getting the job, and no one at the Culpeper Police Department will say why they didn't.

I'm not a big fan of locking people in cages, but I find it appalling that Daniel Harmon-Wright is going to do three years for murder while Cook got the death penalty for trying to avoid a confrontation. 

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  • RBS||

    Yeah 3 years seems a little light for murder. Hey, maybe those ladies from the Culpeper newspaper's facebook page will come back.

  • db||

    You don't know nothin' about their little community so you just take your big-city innuendo and cram it buster.

  • WTF||

    3 years seems a little light for murder

    No. Double. Standard.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Three years in prison is exactly what a civilian would get for shooting a cop sitting in his car right?

  • ||

    Way less, Hugh. No time at all, I'm sure. I mean, before they killed you instead.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Along with a dozen innocent bystanders.

  • Zeb||

    How is this manslaughter and not 2nd degree murder, at least? He fucking shot her, in the face, because (I'm speculating here, but what the hell else would it have been) she didn't properly respect his authoritah.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I find it appalling that Daniel Harmon-Wright is going to do three years for murder while Cook got the death penalty for trying to avoid a confrontation."

    Apparently he was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.

    I suspect the prosecutor thought it would be much easier to get a conviction for manslaughter, rather than murder--it might be really hard to get a unanimous guilty verdict on a murder charge against a cop who's claiming some kind of self-defense.

    But the prosecutor may have gone easy on him for being a cop, too.

  • WTF||

    But the prosecutor may have gone easy on him for being a cop, too.

    Ya think?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Like I said below, I'd bet that the DA was more worried about an acquittal than he was about a conviction.

    A jury trial is like a box of chocolates, but charging him with manslaughter made a conviction a lot more likely.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Most states they charge 2nd degree murder initially and then increase to 1st degree if they think the evidence will support it then let the jury decide whether to convict for 1st, 2nd, Voluntary Manslaughter, or Involuntary Manslaughter. The fact he got 3 years leads me to suspect it was involuntary manslaughter otherwise he SHOULD be doing ~5-15...

  • Brett L||

    Speaking of fallen heroes.

    For one police officer, will the ninth strike mean he's out?

    This time around, Sgt. German Bosque—who has been fired eight times from three different police departments—has been charged with leaving his assault weapon with his girlfriend’s father, a trained security guard, while on an eight-day leave, according to CBS4 Miami.

    That’s a no-no, says the Opa-locka Police Department, which presented its case to dismiss him in front of an arbitration officer on Wednesday.

  • db||

    Is it an "assault weapon" or an actual assault rifle? I know some police officers who have SWAT duties that have select fire weapons in their department issue unmarked vehicles all the time. I asked one guy what he does with them when he has to drive across into NJ as it would violate the NFA to do so when he's not on duty and he looled at me like I had three heads.

    Although to be honest I don't know if there's some sort of carve-out for LEOs as far as crossing borders goes, a non-LEO citizen who takes a registered MG or SBR across a state line without prior permission from ATF is asking for trouble.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's called professional courtesy.

  • Brett L||

    I believe it was a select fire rifle.

  • db||

    If so, that's a *real* no-no. That would get a non-LEO serious penalties for unregistered transfer of an Title II firearm.

  • Invisible Finger||

    I have to admit "fired 8 times from 3 different police departments" was the hardest I've laughed all day.

  • Brett L||

    This happens all the time in private industry for people fired with cause, right?

  • ||

    I'm not a big fan of locking people in cages, but I find it appalling that Daniel Harmon-Wright is going to do three years for murder while Cook got the death penalty for trying to avoid a confrontation.

    Neither am I. But this is the repulsive result of the way the police frame their jobs: sometimes, they are forced to shoot people, therefore every time they shoot someone, they were at least somewhat justified. Therefore, no matter how egregious the shooting, the public has come to automatically view it as an "on-job mistake" as opposed to outright murder. And "on-job mistakes" get lenient sentences. I mean, it was a mistake, right?

    Disgusting. And the pigs encourage this as much as possible.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's three years more than most cops get for murder, so there's that.
    Remember that nothing would have happened if there had not been a witness.
    On the bright side he might get shanked in prison.

  • tarran||

    Also, he got to enjoy the chance to kill someone, which for many cops is part of their bucket list!

  • NoVAHockey||

    yeah, a settlement is more standard. http://reason.com/archives/201.....ce-for-sal

  • JW||

    There's always the chance that a successful civil suit will wreck what's left of his pathetic and pointless life.

  • ||

    Nope. The city would pay for it.

  • JW||

    OK, then still hoping for suicide by inmate.

  • Ken Shultz||

    My understanding is that self-defense isn't a legitimate defense to manslaughter in most jurisdictions--since manslaughter doesn't take the intentions of the killer into account.

    "A person who acted in self-defense with an honest but unreasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to do so could still be convicted of voluntary manslaughter or deliberate homicide committed without criminal malice."

    http://tinyurl.com/c35gm4y

    By charging him with manslaughter rather than murder, the prosecutor seems to have done an end around on the cop's self-defense argument. By charging him with manslaughter, the prosecutor seems to have made a conviction much more likely.

  • KPres||

    "By charging him with manslaughter rather than murder, the prosecutor seems to have done an end around on the cop's self-defense argument."

    You'd think the eye-witness account would have done that without having to give the guy a slap on the wrist.

  • John||

    And you would think the DA would be interested in getting the case right and doing his job rather than getting an easy conviction to appease the mob.

    He charged him with manslaughter because he knew he would win and that would he hoped get the population off his back. He didn't charge him with murder because he couldn't bare the idea of charging any cop with murder.

    This is one of those cases that was so bad even the cops knew that something had to be done. But the DA ensured that nothing too serious was done by charging him with manslaughter rather than murder.

    This is really just as bad as the cases where cops are not even charged. They didn't want to charge him at all at first. It was only after the news was all over it and the community had a fit that they did anything. And sure enough they did the absolute minimum necessary.

    Well hell, one of the cops murdered someone and the victim is a Sunday school teacher. We are not going to be able to sweep this under the rug. I guess we better charge him with something. So lets do manslaughter so he doesn't get too much time and no one can say we ignored it.

    That is exactly the thought process that went into this.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That's the way it looks to me.

    The DA could have been legitimately concerned about the guy being acquitted--and that could have come back and hurt him, too. Charge him with manslaughter--it's the path of least resistance.

    I will say this: I'd hate to be a cop in jail. Three years of being a cop in jail is probably a lot worse than it would be for someone else.

    He'll probably be out in a year and a half, but that year and a half won't be much fun. Often, when you go into protective custody (because you've been convicted of rape, or molestation, or something everybody wants to get you for), you can still circulate with other people in protective custody.

    If you're a cop in jail, I don't think they'll let your circulate with anybody 'cause if there's anybody out there who doesn't want to shank you for being a cop, they probably want to shank you 'cause they assume you're a snitch.

    There's also the psychological factor. A cop getting locked up is like a psychiatrist getting committed. Cops getting locked up for any amount of time is about the worst thing that can happen to them.

  • John||

    And he could have charged him with both and let the jury decide. He didn't even give the jury an option to convict him of Murder. That is the outrageous part.

  • DJK||

    I highly, highly doubt this guy is going to gen pop. He'll be fine. Too bad.

  • John||

    He will spend a year or two in segregation with various snitches, other cops and kiddie rapists. It won't be pleasant. But it will be a lot less than he deserves.

    Then he will get out a convicted felon but probably have family or fellow cops to give him a job. Chances are he will live a happy life as some white trash hillbilly ex con in rural Virginia.

  • DJK||

    Wouldn't the path of least resistance have been to charge him with every possible crime (murder two, presumably some lower-tier violent crimes, and mail fraud - gotta have the mail fraud) in the hopes of obtaining a plea bargain? The ham sandwich theorem of prosecutorial discretion. You know, what would have happened had he been anyone else.

  • John||

    Yes. Even from the perspective of the cop, this is real chicken shit stuff. Suppose the cop really did have a self defense claim. Charging him so he can't use it and the full story won't come out to the jury is pretty unethical.

    He should have been charged with Murder 1, with Murder 2 and Manslaughter as lesser includeds and let the jury decide. My knowledge of lesser included offenses fails me right now. If a person is charged with a crime, the jury can't find them guilty for another uncharged crime. The jury has to find them guilty of that offense or a lesser included offense. So you couldn't find him not guilty of murder but guilty of theft is theft wasn't charged but you could find him not guilty of murder 1 but guilty of murder 2 even though murder 2 wasn't charged. I can't remember if manslaughter is a lesser included of murder. It seems like it should be but I have strange feeling it isn't.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    If your judge will allow the jury instructions, you can get that included - depends by jurisdiction. I would have gone for murder, but that is just me.

  • Seamus||

    You can stop beating up on the prosecution. Harmon-Wright was charged with murder: "Within the count of murder, the jury was able to choose from the charges of first-degree, second-degree or manslaughter" (http://tinyurl.com/d5lt7aa). So if you want to blame someone, blame the jury. (And how, having convicted him of manslaughter, could they possibly have acquitted him of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony? Were they under the misapprehension that he beat Cook to death with his bare hands?)

    By the way, there's no "DA" involved in this case, because there's no district. The prosecutor is the "Commonwealth's Attorney" (officially, the "Attorney for the Commonwealth"), because he represents the Commonwealth of Virginia (as in "Commonwealth v. Harmon-Wright"). In this case, I believe they had to import a prosecutor from Fauquier County, in order to avoid possible tension between the Culpeper County Commonwealth's Attorney's office and the local PD.

  • John||

    So it was a lesser included. And the jury fucked up. Thanks.

  • JSebastian||

    Juries are packed full of as many borderline retarded mouth-breathing hippos as the DA can possibly locate and summon to court, so what the fuck do you expect?

    If the jury gets a verdict wrong like this, they should all be shot. Be a benefit to society. Or, hey, I'm compassionate...death or exile, their choice.

  • JimmyShinnerson||

    Yep...

    Anybody who even gives the slightest impression that they could piss their way through a wet square of tissue paper is kicked off immediately.

  • Generic Stranger||

    My understanding is that self-defense isn't a legitimate defense to manslaughter in most jurisdictions--since manslaughter doesn't take the intentions of the killer into account.

    IANAL, but I'm pretty sure you're wrong on this. The only way you could get a manslaughter charge out of someone claiming self defense is if you can prove that they used way more force than was necessary. If the defendant can show that their use of force was necessary and reasonable, they should be able to beat all charges stemming from that incident.

  • DJK||

    Ken acknowledge this with his quote:

    "A person who acted in self-defense with an honest but unreasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to do so could still be convicted of voluntary manslaughter or deliberate homicide committed without criminal malice."

    You can only use deadly force if there was a situation which you reasonably believed would imminently bring about serious harm to yourself or another. If it's unreasonable to believe this, you won't win self-defense. If it's not going to happen imminently, you won't win self-defense. If it's not serious use of force by the other person, you won't win self-defense.

  • Generic Stranger||

    No, that just means that his point wasn't supported by the source he quoted. I don't know if he misread it or what, but that doesn't translate into "self defense isn't a legitimate defense to manslaughter in most jurisdictions".

  • DJK||

    You're right. Ok.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Also, manslaughter DOES 100% take intent into account. Because, if you intended to kill someone or intended cause serious bodily damage that is 2nd degree murder (as long as you didn't pre-plan it and it happened in the heat of the moment). Voluntary manslaughter certainly takes both intent and malice into account. The intent is what distinguishes between murder and manslaughter and the malice is what distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary (or 1st and 2nd degree murder if there is intent)

  • JSebastian||

    Yah, you would think so, but that doesn't fucking happen in real life. Because most jurors are stupid fat complacent sheep that worship the State, and judges are biased assholes that prop up the corruption and malfeasance and incompetence and lies of the State's attorneys.

  • fish_remote||

    Soon after Harmon-Wright was arrested, it was revealed that he had a tarnished military record, a drinking problem, and a history of harassing Culpeper residents. The first two problems nearly kept him from getting the job, and no one at the Culpeper Police Department will say why they didn't.

    It's all about the "new professionalism"!

    You stay classy Antonin Scalia!

  • John||

    If I were that woman's husband, I think would have a hard time not doing this asshole a lot of harm when he got out of prison. I can't imagine living a world where the guy who murdered my wife walked around free.

  • DaveAnthony||

    He died of cancer recently...

  • RBS||

    Ok, did they have any children? Because I'd feel the same way if the guy who murdered my mom was walking around free.

  • JSebastian||

    I wouldn't rest until I'd watched the guy's brains splash through the scope. Or depending on the opportunity, to see the look of surprise as he turns around and catches the first of many right in the face.

  • JSebastian||

    Damn straight. It would be a glorious achievement to deliver some justice. Everyone who kills a rat bastard like this is an ok dude in my book. Probably have to award him a certificate of recognition or the key to the city.

  • Invisible Finger||

    I'm not a big fan of locking people in cages. But I'm not convinced public servants qualify as people.

  • John||

    I am a big fan of locking in cages people who shoot other people for no apparent reason. I am a full on booster of that. Lock him in a cage and never let him out.

  • sarcasmic||

    If I was king we'd return to the stocks, whipping post and gallows.

    Public humiliation, pain, or death.

    None of this locking people up shit. Let justice be swift and to the point. If the person is too dangerous to roam society, then hang them. Crimes against life, liberty and property get pain. Everything else gets public humiliation.

    Locking people in a cage only teaches them how to live in a cage.

  • John||

    I am not sure if I am totally on board with that. But it is a lot more compelling than people admit. Prison was a system invented by religious fanatics convinced that they could reform people. Before the 19th Century, they either fined people, gave them corporal punishment, or hanged them. The idea of just locking them up forever is a relatively new concept.

  • JSebastian||

    I am with you there. The guy should have been executed on the spot by any concerned citizen. Too bad the carpenter witness didn't have the wherewithal to do him in right there. Think of the savings to the taxpayer and the deterrent value to other fascist scum. We'd have to give a guy like that some kind of a medal or award.

  • seguin||

    Cue dunphy to tell us that 3 years in prison for a cop is perfectly equivalent to 30 for a civilian. I love the fact that for shooting someone in the face a cop gets less time than I would if I had cocaine in my pocket.

  • JimmyJohn||

    3 Years for murder sounds light to me, but I do not know all of the facts of the case. Maybe the woman killed had a marijuana cigarette on her.
    The reason I say this is because the marijuana violations seemed to be taken more seriously than murder.

  • creech||

    Shit like this is why I never duck jury duty.

  • JSebastian||

    When he comes out of the slammer the people interested in real justice will be waiting to deliver some personal consequences. Maybe get a few rounds "on target"...who knows.

  • Dajake||

    Who does she "Cook" think she is; Reese Witherspoon?

  • derfel cadarn||

    He should get life/no parole for his extreme indifference to life and the people that hired him should get three years for gross incompetence resulting in death. Anything less is a gross miscarriage of justice.

  • ProjectChaos||

    I hope this dude get raped and killed by a big ass nigger in jail. lol

  • Pete Geller||

    3 years for murdering this innocent woman??? That should be the sentence of the fool who gave this criminal a job.....

  • Pete Geller||

    I'm sure part of the deal was to give him his job back once he's released.....

  • limeduck10||

    How about 20 years to life?

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