Medals of Valor for Slain Sully Officers

Mourners visit the Sully District police station, where a cruiser sat in honor of Fairfax County Detective Vicky O. Armel, who died in a shootout.
Mourners visit the Sully District police station, where a cruiser sat in honor of Fairfax County Detective Vicky O. Armel, who died in a shootout. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When the shooting started outside the Sully police station May 8, Fairfax County Detective Vicky O. Armel could have ducked behind her car or run back inside. Instead, she tried to draw fire away from a fellow officer and decided to shoot it out with a deranged teenager carrying far more firepower.

The gunman, wielding an AK-47-type rifle, fired 20 shots at officer Michael E. Garbarino, hitting him five times. But Garbarino stayed on his police radio, instructing people how to respond and avoid danger, praying aloud and then staggering to a helicopter, vowing, "I'm not going to die here."

Armel and Garbarino both died at the hands of 18-year-old Michael W. Kennedy, who was then killed by two other officers. Fairfax County police yesterday revealed powerful new details of the historic shooting to coincide with the announcement of the county Chamber of Commerce's annual valor awards.

"My men and women on May 8 just responded with incredible courage," Fairfax Chief David M. Rohrer said. Rohrer listened to Garbarino's radio transmissions that afternoon, advising where a rescue helicopter could safely land and warning officers from a nearby federal agency to stay away.

"It's what you fear, as a chief," Rohrer said. "We heard this ongoing; we heard the gunfire in the background."

In an 18-page narrative, police filled in many of the missing pieces from their most tragic day, including how two officers from other stations came up with an impromptu plan to ambush Kennedy and end the siege at Sully.

Police said yesterday that Kennedy had tried and failed to steal two vehicles from his neighborhood in Centreville before stealing a white van on his third attempt. He wore camouflage-style clothes, kneepads, a ski mask and a vest loaded with ammunition. Police said he carried an AK-47 type rifle, a .30-06 rifle, four .22-caliber handguns and one .38-caliber handgun.

Kennedy drove the van into the back parking lot of the Sully station at 3:52 p.m. Garbarino, 53, and Armel, 40, had both walked into the lot about the same time and then walked to their cars in separate areas of the lot. Garbarino's shift had just ended, and police think he was sitting in his unmarked cruiser to log off his computer before getting into his car to begin his vacation.

Armel went to her unmarked car to investigate Kennedy's carjacking. She put on her bulletproof vest and was outside her car when Kennedy, on foot and just a few yards from Garbarino, began firing into Garbarino's car.

Garbarino called in the shooting and radioed instructions for a rescue helicopter to land in the station's front lot. Rohrer said Garbarino was probably in and out of consciousness.

"Garbarino prayed and asked God's forgiveness for his sins," the police narrative continues, "all the while continuing to guide his fellow officers."

Kennedy apparently had not spotted Armel. But she somehow attracted his attention to draw him away from Garbarino. She fired seven shots from her 9 mm handgun, police said, and Kennedy then directed his attack toward her.


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