Fairfax Officer's Widow Rebukes Killer's Father

This wall was scarred by gunfire in 18-year-old Michael Kennedy's May 2006 attack on the Sully District police station, which took the lives of two officers.
This wall was scarred by gunfire in 18-year-old Michael Kennedy's May 2006 attack on the Sully District police station, which took the lives of two officers. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 9, 2007

The families of Officer Michael E. Garbarino and Detective Vicky O. Armel have stood silent since 18-year-old Michael Kennedy drove into a Fairfax County police parking lot last year and fatally shot the two officers.

But yesterday, at the sentencing of Kennedy's father on two federal gun charges, Garbarino's widow unleashed the frustration and anger of a family, and a police department, at the father they consider responsible for the deaths.

"What type of person would feed his son drugs every day, knowing the extent of his emotional problems, and keep an arsenal of guns scattered around the house for him to have access to?" said Suzanne Garbarino, glancing at her notes and glaring at Brian H. Kennedy before answering her own question: "A parent that chose to do the wrong thing and not take responsibility for his actions."

Garbarino acknowledged that Michael Kennedy was killed by officers who responded to the attack at the Sully station May 8, 2006. "Yes, you lost a son," she said, "but the sad part is, you didn't have to. And don't ever forget that even though he was your son, Michael Kennedy was a murderer, and you chose, as his parent, to guide him down the wrong road."

After Garbarino spoke, a federal judge sentenced Kennedy to 40 months in prison for lying on a federal gun application and illegally possessing a gun, both crimes linked to his admitted marijuana use.

Kennedy, 50, also spoke publicly for the first time. He did not make eye contact with the Garbarino or Armel families or the two dozen police officers there to support them.

"I have suffered the loss of my son Michael, whom I loved very, very much," Kennedy said, "and I also grieve for the two other families, for this tragedy, and I will for the rest of my life. I'm sorry."

Garbarino said after the hearing that her impassioned speech came to her in August during a solitary walk on the beach, followed by a frenzied writing session. She was still hesitant about speaking before a crowded courtroom, "but Mike would've been saying, 'Go on, get up there,' " she said. "I know he was sitting next to me while I was reading it."

In late September, after Brian Kennedy pleaded guilty to the federal charges, Garbarino sued him in Fairfax County Circuit Court for wrongful death and negligence. The case is pending.

In early 2006, Michael Kennedy was struggling with headaches and mental problems, and his family repeatedly sought psychiatric help for him. In February 2006, the 18-year-old was handling a gun and apparently considering suicide when he accidentally shot the family dog. After that, Brian Kennedy locked up the family's 20 guns and kept the key with him at all times, his attorney, Jonathan Shapiro, said yesterday.

But photographs show that on May 8, 2006, Michael Kennedy used an ax, a crowbar and a hammer to smash open a wooden footlocker containing rifles and ammunition. The teenager also tried, without success, to break into a metal gun locker elsewhere in the family's Centreville townhouse.

Arming himself with two rifles, five handguns and hundreds of bullets, Michael Kennedy walked into his Centreville neighborhood and carjacked a van. His mother, Margaret, who attended the hearing, apparently witnessed that crime, Shapiro said in court papers.

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