Closing arguments have wrapped up in a trial that has everybody talking in Central VA. In the sleepy town of Culpeper, Daniel Harmon-Wright is fighting to get his life back. An ex-police officer, he made the mistake of taking on the wrong woman in the parking lot of a Catholic School on February 9, 2012. Somebody called and said there was a “suspicious looking car.” Think of Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes in front of the Winn Dixie, “TOWANDA.”
Only it didn’t work out that well when 54-year-old Patricia Ann Cook decided that she wasn’t getting out of her car for no good reason. When Harmon-Wright tried reaching inside (to get her keys I presume), she closed the window on the officer’s arm and started dragging him down the pavement. That’s when he shot her. He is charged 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…A prosecutor called the fatal shooting “excessive” and unnecessary, while Harmon-Wright’s attorney said the officer was doing his job in shooting at a ‘fleeing felon.’” http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/ap/ex-culpeper-officer-s-murder-trial-nears-end/article_76733eba-ade6-5188-a938-ec980d8b5db2.html
Wait, who’s the felon? The officer had a history of unnecessary force, “…about a month before the fatal incident, Harmon-Wright received a reprimand for entering a house with his gun drawn and forcing a teenager to the floor. It turned out he had the wrong teen.”
I remember thinking how strange and stupid the whole thing was when I first heard about it, why not shoot out the tires, or just threaten her, or aim at her hand or something? Now I love the police just like the next guy, or girl, but growing up in the North we learned to never take chances when somebody in a uniform with a gun approaches us. You do what they say. Period. However, you know that if they want to search your car, they need a little something called “probable cause.” Just because you’re a young man with long hair and a brake light is out won’t cut it…do you detect a note of the anti-establishment 60s? Maybe Cook was having a bad day, maybe it was a menopausal Towanda kinda day? Did she deserve to die?
It’s serendipitous that the jury will most likely deliver its verdict on the same day that a new immigration policy is unfolding further upstream in Washington, DC. Police have been stopping suspicious looking people, (ie Mexican) and asking for their identification in some states. They have been imprisoning people who may have been called for a domestic dispute, turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and deporting them…because they raised their voice and didn’t have a green card. Children have been separated from parents. During President Obama’s tenure, deportations have risen beyond the levels of President Bush, calling for a policy that “…would force local law enforcement to share fingerprints of those arrested with the Department of Homeland Security, which has immigration records, through the FBI.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/27/obama-is-deporting-more-immigrants-than-bush-republicans-dont-think-thats-enough/
We read about police states, but we never really think this could happen here. When is deadly force the right move? Who gets to question who about their immigration status? Now, because the clueless GOP thinks that losing 71% of the Latino vote in November is reason enough to consider a humane, comprehensive immigration policy, we should celebrate. Well, OK, just un pequeno.
RIP Patricia Ann Cook, the unarmed Sunday School teacher who was shot 7 times. And thank God for online petitions, like the one that kept the city from brushing this case under the proverbial rug.