Man sentenced for assault leading to officerinvolved shooting
Packer to spend up to 30 years in prison for event
Initially indicted for attempted murder, a Waldorf man — shot by police in 2015 — was sentenced to 30 years of active incarceration Tuesday in Charles County Circuit Court for choking his girlfriend to the point of unconsciousness and then aiming a loaded shotgun at officers who surrounded the house after she managed to escape.
Terrence Vernard Packer, 40, was found guilty by a jury in February for second-degree assault against the woman and three counts of first-degree assault against the officers, who pleaded for him to drop the gun for several minutes before he finally swung open the door and leveled the gun in their direction, prompting a veteran officer, armed with a
rifle, to fire seven shots. Three bullets found their mark.
“This court needs to make a statement this afternoon,” said Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry (D).
In a courtroom filled beyond capacity with a host of police officers and many supporters of Packer, the sentence was handed down by Administrative Judge Amy Bragunier, who said she was certain, after presiding over the trial, that if the victim had not been able to escape that night, she would be dead and he would have killed himself as well.
Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington (D) praised the prosecutors who handled the case, and the victim whose bravery he commended.
“It was a very difficult investigation ... It was a very difficult trial,” he told the Maryland Independent. “I’m very proud of my guys, [Assistant State’s Attorneys] John Stackhouse and Sarah Freeman; they did a really good job prosecuting this case. Very proud of [the victim]. She went through hell. It was hard to stand up to this. Somebody that you love all the sudden ... tries to kill you.”
Covington agreed with Bragunier, adding that “this defendant showed absolutely zero remorse. He never apologized to the officers; he never apologized to [the victim].”
On Feb. 24, 2015, the victim was in the process of moving out of Packer’s house after living with him for several months. The couple decided to break up after Packer was accused of cheating, so the victim now slept in a guest bedroom. She was sleeping in that room when Packer came home that night, and was awoken by the sounds of shattering glass, she testified. When she went to investigate the noise, she saw Packer throwing her things over a railing on the second floor and into a room on the first floor, demanding that she leave, she testified. The two began arguing as the victim proceeded to collect her belongings, knocking over some of his possessions in the process, she admitted.
The argument escalated, and Packer, who had competed as a wrestler in his younger years, attacked the victim and put her in an elaborate chokehold maneuver until she lost consciousness, according to proceedings.
“I was just grabbing at his arm,” she testified. “I remember thinking to myself that this is not how I’m supposed to die, and everything went black.”
When she awoke, Packer was pacing back-andforth, saying “he had to do it,” and that he was sorry, but he wasn’t going to jail. He told her that he was going to get a gun to shoot her and then shoot himself, she testified.
She followed Packer as he went to retrieve a rifle, she continued, and was able to snatch the weapon and hide in a room, locking the door behind her.
But, “I realized he had other guns in the house,” she said.
Realizing this, she left the room and made her way downstairs, toward the front door, when she saw Packer retrieving another gun from a closet.
Noticing her, “he dropped the box of shells and they went all over the floor,” the victim said. She took the opportunity to bolt out of the house and escape in her car before calling police.
At about 11:23 p.m., officers with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 3400 block of Azalea Place for a reported domestic-related assault in progress, but the situation quickly escalated over the radio as the report changed to an armed suspect. Officers Ronald Walls and Charles Garner were among the first to arrive at the house, as they began their tactical approach, they testified. Walls — a trained hostage negotiator — took the point, as the officers carefully made their way toward the front door, checking windows along the way for possible threats.
As Walls rounded the corner of the house and looked through the partially open front door, he quickly jumped back.
“I saw a man there with a shotgun pointed at me,” Walls testified.
The officers took up defensive positions outside of the house as reinforcements continued to arrive.
Walls tried to talk to the gunman.
“Terrence, I need you to put the shotgun down,” the jurors heard Walls say on his “iCop” recording, among many other attempts to pacify the man.
“I know you got a lot going on in your mind right now,” said Walls, “but it doesn’t have to go like this.”
According to several officer testimonies, Packer continued to partially expose the barrel of the shotgun and his arm in and out of the doorframe, causing the apprehensive officers to shout, commanding him to drop the weapon.
Suddenly, in one fluid motion, Packer swung open the door and turned, leveling his shotgun in the direction of numerous deputies, officers testified.
“Pap-pap- pap- pap- pappap-pap,” the victim imitated the sounds of gunfire that she heard.
POI Samuel Hooper, who took cover behind the engine compartment of a neighbor’s SUV, fired seven shots in rapid succession, three of which struck Packer.
Jurors heard a man cry out in agony on the iCop recording.
Deputies moved in and secured the weapon after a canine apprehended the suspect who was still within reach of the shotgun, officers testified.
Cpl. Joseph Piazza and Cpl. Robert Gottschall began treating his wounds and tied a tourniquet around his leg. The officers were later awarded the Lifesaving Medal from the sheriff’s office for their roles.
Hooper was presented the Bronze Star of Valor for his actions which prevented officers from being seriously injured or killed.
Packer spent the following days in the ICU of a Baltimore hospital, fighting for his life, he told the Maryland Independent during jury deliberation. For the next three months, he underwent about 25 to 30 surgeries, he said, recalling one particularly painful experience in which he was cauterized without anesthesia.
Fourteen different people, mostly friends and family, asked Bragunier to show leniency when sentencing Packer, who they all agreed was “not the monster he has been painted to be,” as one friend said.
“My son is not a menace to society, never has been,” his mother told the court. “Terrence has never been in trouble.”
“He was in extreme
Friday, April 8, 2016 distress that night,” said assistant public defender Michele Harewood, who suggested his intention on that evening was to commit “suicide-by-cop.”
Harewood addressed Bragunier on the defendant’s behalf, asking the court to show some leniency. If he is ever released, she continued, no one is going to say he’s become a better man because he’s already a good man.
Afterward, Packer thanked everyone who spoke on his behalf before addressing Bragunier, yet did not ask for mercy.
“I have nothing to really give or to have taken away,” he said. “To me, it is what it is,” adding that he has held his head high during judicial process.
Regarding his testimony during the trial, “I wanted to be heard,” Packer continued. “She [the victim] knows the truth. I know the truth.”
“I’ve always been taught that when you get knocked down, you dust yourself off and keep going,” he said.
After he finished, Bragunier sentenced him to serve 30 years in prison, giving him a little over a year in credit for time served.
District Four Public Defender Michael Beach provided the Maryland Independent with a statement on the outcome of the case.
“This was the fourth police-involved shooting by the officer who shot Mr. Packer. The shielding of this critical information from the jury and from the
Maryland Independent public at sentencing, along with the prejudgment of Mr. Packer as being solely responsible for this incident, undermines any confidence in the outcome of this case. Mr. Packer — who was the only person shot and who nearly died — is now doing 30 years in prison despite his weakened physical state and complete lack of prior criminal history. His case does nothing to dispel negative perceptions of the Charles County criminal justice system stemming from recent national media coverage.”
Hooper was involved in three departmental shootings during his 20year stint with the Prince George’s County Police Department, the Washington Post reported.
In 2009, Hooper had been one of 14 officers who opened fire on an armed suspect who had shot at police outside of a bar, the Washington Post reported. The officers unleashed a volley of close to 90 rounds, killing the gunman, the report said. The veteran officer was also directly involved in two other shootings in 2006 and 1996.
“Everyday I cry ... I saw a side of Terrence I pray no one else ever has to experience,” the victim said before sentencing. “I’m not the woman I was before this, but I get stronger every day.”
“I forgive him,” she said in closing, fighting back tears. “I forgive him because I have to move on with my life.”