Culpeper Officer Pleads Not Guilty in February Fatal Shooting - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Culpeper Officer Pleads Not Guilty in February Fatal Shooting

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The Culpeper town police officer charged with murder for shooting a woman during a traffic stop says he's not guilty.  Officer Daniel Harmon-Wright entered not guilty pleas on four felony charges including murder.

Friday morning's testimony offers new insights into a case that left one woman dead and her family and community searching for answers.  Some of those answers came Friday, about the shooting and the officer's past troubles.

Special prosecutor Jim Fisher revealed that Harmon-Wright shot at Patricia Cook seven times - not six as had been first indicated - including two, first, at point blank range.

"The officer then advanced his position into the street behind the motor vehicle firing from back to front an additional five shots," said Fisher.

The fatal shots came from those five, with one lodged in her brain, another severing her spine, and with pieces of the bullet coming to rest in her heart and lung.  Testimony Friday also focused on the police officer's past.     

Harmon-Wright admitted to having alcohol issues going all the way back to his time as a Marine, where he was disciplined four times by the Corps.  He says the Culpeper Police Department knew about it.

Fisher said, "It includes things such as documentation that shows he was not recommended to be hired."

But Harmon-Wright was hired in 2006, despite the alcohol issues and a reported failed psychiatric report.

Why those things didn't disqualify him for the police job wasn't addressed, but his lawyer says they're not pertinent to the shooting.

Defense attorney Daniel Hawes said, "I don't think it has anything to do with this case."

Hawes says the case is about what happened on North East Street in February, painting the victim as a threat.  He says Cook rolled her car window up on the officer's hand, injuring him, and tried to drive off dangerously with a large sunshade blocking her view out of the windshield.

"This woman had such a degree of recklessness with her behavior that it evidenced an intent, at least a willingness to kill other people," Hawes said.

The defense is asking to move the trial, saying Culpeper is too politically sensitive.  Harmon-Wright was given a $100,000 secured bond.  He will be back in court on July 24.

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