Fairfax, Va., Embezzler Is Sentenced to 66 Years in Shooting Rampage

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 29, 2009

A Fairfax County man who went on a shooting rampage last year, seriously wounding three people and then launching a shootout with police near Springfield Mall, was sentenced yesterday to 66 years in prison.

Jeffrey S. Koger, 39, formerly the chief financial officer of his family's Fairfax County property management company, suffered from mental illness and alcoholism when he began stealing from Koger Management Group in 2003, psychological experts testified. He was under investigation for embezzling $3 million from about 400 homeowners associations, representing about 70,000 members, when he snapped Feb. 2, 2008.

Koger, of the Herndon area, apologized yesterday to the assembled victims and said he did not remember the episode.

Fairfax Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Casey Lingan urged Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Thacher to send Koger to prison "for the rest of his natural life."

Thacher said he did not believe Koger didn't remember the event. Koger had armed himself, the judge said, with "multiple firearms and ammunition and set about to cause devastation to the community."

Koger has admitted walking up to a taxicab stopped on Seminary Road in Alexandria about 3 a.m. that day. The driver, Bereket Tewelde, testified yesterday that Koger, without saying a word, fired several times through the window into Tewelde, while a horrified passenger watched from the back seat.

Tewelde was wounded in the face, shoulder and chest. He said he can no longer drive a cab or support his family. "I still continue to feel pain," said Tewelde, 36.

After shooting Tewelde, Koger returned to his Jeep Cherokee and drove to Fairfax, where he began ramming a vehicle on Franconia Road, prosecutors said. The other driver pulled into the Franconia district police station and drove back out. Koger stopped, got out of his Jeep and walked over to where Najib Gerdak was standing and talking to Scott Duke, who was in his car.

Prosecutors said Koger shot Gerdak and Duke several times, and Gerdak testified that Koger kicked him in the head and told him not to move or he'd shoot him again. Duke, 28, testified, "I thought I was going to die," and he said a bullet is still lodged behind his sternum.

"Having to look at the person that tried to take your life," Duke said, glancing at Koger from the witness stand, "never knowing you, is pretty hard to understand."

One bullet was removed from Gerdak, 27, and parts of two remain inside him. He has extensive scarring, and his career as a hairdresser has been derailed because of nerve damage to his shoulder and arm.

Koger drove from the police station and, with police in pursuit, crashed into a pole near Springfield Mall. Koger pulled out a shotgun and fired at Virginia State Trooper Jonathan Groner and Metro Transit Police officers Greg Taylor, William Bermingham and Heidi Rivas. Taylor was wounded in the leg. The officers returned fire, and Koger surrendered after he was hit in the leg, prosecutors said.

"Initially I thought I couldn't believe this is where I'm going to die, right here, right now," Bermingham said. He said he pictured officers notifying his fiancee of his death.

"I didn't hug my kids much before," Taylor said of his 15- and 20-year-old sons, "but now it's completely different."

Koger entered Alford pleas in the shooting rampage, meaning that he didn't admit guilt but acknowledged that there was enough evidence to convict him of three counts of attempted capital murder of a police officer, three counts of aggravated malicious wounding -- all with 20-year minimum sentences -- and two counts of using a firearm during a felony.

His attorney, Peter D. Greenspun, said that Koger suffered from bipolar disorder and that his family had abandoned him.

Koger pleaded guilty in federal court in November to embezzlement from his family's company, which was forced into bankruptcy. He was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution and taxes.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company