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Former Culpeper police officer set to go on trial on murder charges in shooting death of unarmed woman

 A memorial for Patricia Cook sprang up along the utility pole where her Jeep came to a rest after the shooting.
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Date published: 1/20/2013


Daniel Hawes, a member of the Virginia Legal Defense who is representing Harmon-Wright, has maintained from the outset that his client felt threatened because Cook tried to roll up her vehicle window, trapping Harmon-Wright's arm and then driving off.

How he plans to make that defense in court remains a mystery since, through Friday, he has not subpoenaed a single witness, according to the case file.

Fisher, on the other hand, has 29 witnesses under subpoena, including five children from the Catholic preschool where the parking-lot shooting began.

Key among those witnesses is Kristopher Buchele, the painter who claims to have watched the entire shooting incident unfold from a second-story window in the house where he was working.

Buchele, who said he went to the window after hearing yelling below, has insisted that the officer's hand was not inside the Jeep Wrangler window (which had hand-cranked glass) but rather outside.

A number of town police officers are also scheduled to testify, as is an instructor from the criminal justice academy where Harmon-Wright trained before joining the Culpeper force.

Among other quirks of this complex case, Fisher has requested that Judge Whitlock allow the jury to, at some point, adjourn to the crime scene for clarity's sake.

The special prosecutor has also requested that Hawes not be allowed to refer to Patricia Cook as "a fleeing felon," which the defense attorney did during a bond hearing last summer.

The incident began about 9:45 a.m. on Feb. 9, 2012, when Officer Harmon-Wright, also know as Dan Sullivan (his adopted name), was dispatched to Epiphany School following a report of a suspicious person.

There, in the school parking lot, he made contact with Cook, who, for reasons that have not yet been explained, was sitting in her Jeep.

At some point during the incident, a verbal altercation between Cook and Harmon-Wright began. According to Buchele's statement, made less than two hours after the shooting, Cook then rolled up her window and started to exit the parking lot and drive south on East Street.

At that point, according to Buchele, Officer Harmon-Wright twice yelled, "Stop or I'll shoot!"

According to Fisher's court statement, the officer then fired twice through the glass, striking Cook in the head both times.

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