Man sen­tenced for as­sault lead­ing to of­fi­cer­in­volved shoot­ing

Packer to spend up to 30 years in prison for event

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­

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

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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.”

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