Sunday, May 14, 2006
W. Louis Hennessy was at home Monday night when he turned on the television and saw the live news reports describing the aftermath of the ambush-style shooting at a Fairfax County police station.
Hearing that one officer was slain and another critically wounded, and that the gunman was dead, Hennessy's mind turned to another shooting of law enforcement officers -- one in which he was the intended target.
Nov. 22, 1994: Hennessy was captain of the D.C. police homicide squad. He was out of the office for the day when a homicide suspect walked into the cold case unit's room at police headquarters.
The suspect, Bennie L. Lawson, opened fire with an assault weapon. He killed D.C. police Sgt. Henry J. "Hank" Daly, 51, and FBI agents Michael J. Miller, 41, and Martha Dixon Martinez, 35. FBI agent John David Kuchta, then 31, was critically wounded.
Lawson, 25, then shot himself to death with an agent's gun.
A week or so earlier, Hennessy and some detectives had questioned Lawson, a suspect in a triple homicide. After the bloodshed at the headquarters, police found a handwritten note in Lawson's bedroom that read, "Wanted Dead Captain Hennessy & staff."
Hennessy, who retired from the force and is a Maryland District Court judge in Charles County, has difficulty describing the grim scene he encountered in the cold case room that day. He said the attack redefined his life.
"It made me realize how fragile life is," Hennessy said. "You just can't take it for granted. The scene was almost surreal. It was one of the most violent scenes I have ever been exposed to."
D.C. police still house their cold case unit in that room. Detectives display plaques and photographs on the wall to honor Daly and the agents. Police headquarters -- then known as the Municipal Center -- was renamed the Henry J. Daly Building in 1996. A memorial service was held in November 2004 for the 10th anniversary of the shooting.
Kuchta, who was shot at least five times, including in the heart, recovered and stayed on the job. He works in the bureau's Tampa field office, FBI officials said.
Hennessy said he worries that Fairfax police officers will never get over the rampage at the Sully District station in Chantilly that left Detective Vicky O. Armel dead and Officer Michael E. Garbarino critically wounded. Some D.C. detectives experienced emotional problems in the years after the shootings, and at least one had to seek inpatient help for alcohol problems, he said.
Most never sought help or counseling, though. Even today, they don't feel comfortable discussing what happened.
"You don't talk about stuff like that," Hennessy said. "You can't. Otherwise, everybody would be crying in their beer."
-- Del Quentin Wilber