Shooter's Father Pleads Guilty to Gun Charges

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Brian H. Kennedy, whose son drove into a Fairfax County police station parking lot last year and fatally shot two officers, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to two gun charges involving the weapons used in the killings.

Kennedy, 50, of Centreville, did not make any statements during the hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria and declined to comment afterward. He was allowed to remain free on $100,000 bond until his sentencing Oct. 26, at which he will face a likely term of three to four years in prison.

The spouses of the slain officers -- Detective Vicky O. Armel, 40, and Officer Michael E. Garbarino, 53 -- were in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris, along with other family members. Armel and Garbarino were at their unmarked police cars in the rear of the Sully District station May 8, 2006, when Michael W. Kennedy drove into the lot in a stolen white van.

Kennedy, 18, was wearing camouflage-style clothes, kneepads, a ski mask and a vest loaded with more than 300 rounds of ammunition and was armed with two rifles and five handguns that belonged to his father, police said. He immediately began firing into Garbarino's car, as the veteran officer sat unarmed behind the wheel at the end of his shift. Garbarino was hit five times in the upper body and died nine days later.

Armel was in a slightly obscured part of the parking lot and began firing at Kennedy with her handgun, although the teenager had far more firepower, including a semiautomatic AK-47-style assault rifle. She was shot in the chest and legs and died a short time later.

Two officers responding to Garbarino's radioed calls for help, Jeffrey W. Andrea and Mark P. Dale, then shot and killed Kennedy, police said.

Police searched the townhouse of Kennedy's parents that night. They found a variety of rifles, shotguns and handguns strewed about, as well as bags of marijuana in several places. The family's attorney said that the guns had been locked in a safe but that Michael Kennedy, who had a history of mental illness, apparently knew where the key was.

Brian Kennedy was arrested April 5 after federal prosecutors obtained an indictment saying he was a habitual marijuana user and thus prohibited from owning guns. The indictment also accused him of aiding and abetting his son in obtaining the guns used in the Sully shootings.

Kennedy did not plead guilty to the aiding and abetting charge, and prosecutors agreed to dismiss that count and five others. Instead, he pleaded guilty to making a false statement when purchasing a firearm -- for checking a box stating he was not an illegal-drug user -- and being a prohibited person in possession of firearms and ammunition.

Kennedy, who worked as a meat manager at a supermarket at the time of the shootings, also agreed to forfeit 20 guns, including the seven his son took to the Sully station, and numerous boxes of ammunition as part of his plea agreement.

The two charges each carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence. But both sides agreed that federal sentencing guidelines suggest a range of 37 to 46 months in prison.

The original indictment alleged that Brian Kennedy smoked marijuana with his son and his son's teenage friends and that Michael Kennedy's mother, Margaret, took the teens to a shooting range to practice firing assault rifles. Michael Kennedy referred to the AK-47-style gun his father had bought as "his gun," the indictment said, even showing friends how to use it. That gun was one of the weapons the teenager had with him when he left home the afternoon of the police station shooting.

Brian Kennedy's attorney, Jonathan Shapiro, said his client had not returned to his family's home, where he lived with his wife, daughter and son until May 8 of last year, "because of the memories of the loss of his son, who was spiraling into insanity and did this horrible thing."

Shapiro called the episode "a tragedy for everybody involved" but said Brian Kennedy "is paying a huge price for, in essence, being a smoker of marijuana and owning firearms, which he did do. He was in no way responsible for the deaths of the officers, and he grieves for them as he does the death of his son."

Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer also was in the courtroom and said afterward: "This is not closure by any means for us. This is part of the process, and certainly I'm looking forward to the sentencing hearing. We're here today out of respect and remembrance for Vicky Armel and Mike Garbarino."

The shootings were the first line-of-duty killings of Fairfax officers and have had a profound impact on the 1,300-member force.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company