Culpeper officer charged with murder

Posted at 7:45 PM, May 30, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-31 09:49:08-04

CULPEPER, Va. (WTVR) - Residents in Culpeper want people to know their city for its charm and southern hospitality, but Wednesday all anyone could talk about is why a police officer opened fire and killed a woman insider her Jeep.

David Billet owns a gift shop in downtown Culpeper. He says in his 46 years living there, he’s never heard of a police officer accused of murder.

“It’s just scary and sad,” said Billett. “I've heard some people are all mad, but that doesn't help anything.” 

A makeshift memorial now stands near the spot where 54 year-old Patricia Ann Cook was shot by 32 year-old Officer Daniel Harmon-Wright, who is now on administrative leave and without pay in jail. [RELATED: Officer indicted in fatal traffic stop shooting]

Back on February 9, 2012 and 10 a.m., investigators say Harmon-Wright interacted with Cook in the 300 block of North East Street. Investigators say during the encounter, Harmon-Wright shot Cook, and she died at the scene.

Harmon-Wright claimed self-defense, but a special investigative grand jury disagreed, and charged Harmon-Wright with murder, and three other charges.

Darryl Sanker who lives around the corner from where the shooting occurred said he ran to the scene after hearing an officer shot and killed someone.

“I seen them surrounding the Jeep with the covers so that people couldn’t see them pull the body out. Then, I see them pull the body out….I think they should charge [the officer] with capital murder in my opinion because she had no reason to be killed,” Sanker  said.

What’s more, during the investigation into the shooting, police say they discovered that Harmon-Wright’s mother, 55-year-old Bethany Sullivan attempted to purge her son’s negative record while she was an administrative secretary to the Chief of Police. She left in 2010.  Sullivan’s been charged with three counts of forgery of public documents, and is out on $5,000 bond.

“It’s incredible,” said Finney Scott, a resident from Culpeper.

Scott is not only disturbed by the shooting, but by the charges against Harmon-Wright’s mother.

“I would never teach my grandson tell a little lie. If he did something wrong, I want him to say ‘I did this’, and [for a mother to falsify for her son] is totally unforgivable”, Scott said.

As for the Culpeper police department, Scott says she wonders if they can be trusted.

“We tell our kids if anything goes go to the police, but it makes you wonder ‘should you go to the police?’… I mean, if the police stops me now, should I stop? Or, should I keep on going until I get to safe place?” Scott said.

The Mayor of Culpeper, Chip Coleman, sent out a statement that says in part:

If the allegations brought forth in the grand jury indictments are proven to be true, we as elected and government employees are equally saddened and disappointed. We share in the community’s outrage and concern regarding the alleged action of this one officer.

We want the judicial process to run its course, while at the same time ask the community to join with us to help the healing process that requires all of us to work together so that your town can regain your trust.