In the months before he allegedly shot and wounded an Alexandria police officer, cab driver Kashif Bashir e-mailed two news organizations to say someone was talking to him telepathically and trying to take over his body.
“I am not in control of my life anymore,” Bashir wrote. “It is driving me nuts, and I can’t take it any longer.”
The e-mails — in hindsight, perhaps an ominous warning — could play a key role in Bashir’s trial this week, as Alexandria Circuit Court Judge James C. Clark weighs whether Bashir was able to distinguish right from wrong in the February 2013 shooting of police officer Peter Laboy. Bashir’s defense attorney has indicated he will pursue an insanity defense.
Bashir, 29, is charged with attempted capital murder and other related counts in connection with the shooting, which forever altered the life of Laboy, a 46-year-old father of four. That Bashir is even going to a trial is something of a surprise. He was twice declared incompetent for such proceedings, and court filings indicate he is now being forced to take antipsychotic medicine so that he can participate. A judge rejected his attorney’s request to stop those medications during the trial.
Beginning Monday, prosecutors will try to prove that Bashir understood the consequences of his actions when he ambushed Laboy, a motorcycle officer who pulled Bashir over while helping colleagues investigate a report about a man acting bizarrely at a shop in Alexandria. Laboy has said in previous interviews that he remembers only that he was coming back from getting his bike serviced in Maryland when a call came over his police radio about a yellow minivan cab. He has said he remembers telling the dispatcher he would respond, and virtually nothing after that.
By the accounts of prosecutors and witnesses, Laboy pulled Bashir over, and Bashir shot him in the head before the officer had even fully gotten off his bike. Bashir then sped away in his yellow van cab — reaching speeds of 100 mph — until he crashed into a car in Fairfax County, prosecutors have said.
Defense attorneys hope the e-mails will show Bashir did not understand what he was doing when he shot Laboy, despite the fact that he fled from the scene. They were sent in close proximity to the incident: the first, to a Fox News tip e-mail address, was sent on New Year’s Eve 2012, and the second, to an MSNBC public relations address, was sent on New Year’s Day 2013, court records show.
The e-mail to MSNBC is particularly rambling: Bashir talks of odd incidents in his cab and of people taking his picture and following him. He claims that he went to police with some of his concerns and was turned away. “They told me I was being paranoid and stop thinking about it,” Bashir wrote. The e-mail talks of suicide but does not seem to threaten anyone else.
The judge will not consider how Bashir acted soon after the shooting and crash, as prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed the video of his interrogation should be excluded from the evidence. The description of it from court records, though, is interesting.
The Alexandria detectives, who initially tell Bashir he is being arrested for driving while intoxicated, seem to offer the cab driver possible explanations for his conduct, suggesting a “problem with booze” might have caused the incident or that Bashir was stressed with family and financial responsibilities, according to a defense filing. The detectives ask Bashir if he has been pestered by police or cab inspectors, the filing says.
As Bashir remains silent, though, the interrogation becomes increasingly aggressive, according to the filing. The detectives dismiss the idea that Bashir could be mentally ill — “Crazy people you can’t shut up,” one says — and call the cab driver “evil.”
“Who is so cold inside that he can just sit there silently?” one detective asks, according to the filing. They then describe Bashir being executed in graphic and profanity-laced detail.
“I want the last thing that goes through your head, right before that [expletive] poison kills you, I want — look at me — I want the last thing to go through your mind is my face,” one detective says, according to the filing.
Alexandria police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal declined to comment, saying “The police department cannot elaborate on evidence that may be used during the prosecutorial process.” Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter also declined to comment, and Bashir’s defense attorney, Emily Beckman, did not return a message seeking comment.
The shooting — which occurred in broad daylight and not far from an elementary school — startled Alexandria. Laboy has made a remarkable recovery, but he gets frustrated easily and cannot always get his body to perform the tasks his brain wants it to. His return to police work appears doubtful.
Laboy has said that he hopes Bashir “gets convicted of something,” though his main focus is on improving his own health. “The way I look at it is, somebody has it worse than me, and that’s him,” he said. “I been here . . . and this whole year that I’ve been going through this, he’s been in jail.”
Laboy’s wife, Suzanne Laboy, said in a more recent e-mail that she and her husband “both look forward to having the trial done and over with. . . . However our main focus remains continuing to stay healthy and improve brain function on a daily basis,” she said.