Every year for the past four years, Kashif Bashir has appeared before a judge. Each time, the mental hospital where he has been held since October 2014 has recommended he stay there.
The former cabdriver has been treated in the secure facility since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity after shooting and nearly killing a police officer in Alexandria, Va.
Several weeks ago, though, former officer Peter Laboy heard from prosecutors that experts at the hospital think Bashir is ready to be released to a halfway house. Alexandria Circuit Court Judge James C. Clark is set to consider Bashir’s case at a Thursday hearing, and will decide if he is ready to be returned to the community.
It is a possibility that has left the former officer shaken and worried Bashir could come after him or his family.
“Everybody says legally he cannot now go and get a gun,” Laboy said. “But you can go anywhere, any bad neighborhood, and give money to anybody and they can just get a gun.”
More profoundly, Laboy and his supporters feel that Bashir has not been punished enough for the crime, regardless of his psychological state at the time. Laboy suffered a traumatic brain injury from which he is still severely compromised.
“We know Peter, we see what this has done to his life and his family,” said Earl Cook, who was the city’s police chief at the time. “To say that Bashir had a moment and that moment has passed and he should be able to go on with his life, a life totally different in quality from the one he enacted on Peter Laboy . . . it’s hard not to be emotionally involved.”
Laboy and others plan to attend the hearing, but only the medical experts can testify.
An attorney for Bashir did not respond to a request for comment. The commonwealth’s attorney’s office declined to comment, as did the state hospital.
Psychologists agreed at trial that Bashir, who was 27 at the time of the Feb. 27, 2013, attack, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was listening to voices in his head when he shot Laboy.
The last thing Laboy remembers is responding on his motorcycle to the call over his police radio about a yellow minivan cab. Bashir had driven by a shop in Old Town where he had harassed employees the day before, and sped off when an officer tried to confront him.
According to trial testimony, Bashir shot Laboy before the motorcycle officer was able to fully dismount his bike. The bullet struck his head.
Bashir then sped away in his minivan cab — reaching speeds of 100 mph — until he crashed into a car in Fairfax County.
Doctors later said he planned to rape a woman who worked at the store and then kill a police officer, which he thought would help him move toward some higher state of being. Defense attorneys at trial argued their client, who had a difficult childhood in Pakistan, suffered from “pervasive” mental illness. A judge ultimately decided Bashir could not tell right from wrong when he shot Laboy.
When Cook arrived at the hospital after the shooting, the doctor told him to call Laboy’s wife and a priest.
Then the officer made the kind of recovery described consistently as miraculous. “Every new report was stunningly surprising, that he was still pulling through so strongly,” Cook recalled.
But Laboy’s life was forever altered. The brain damage affected his personality and his ability to complete complex tasks.
Five-and-a-half years later, he is still not cleared to drive, although he says he stopped suffering from seizures two years ago. His hands tremble. He speaks haltingly. He will lose himself for 10 or 20 minutes at a time, staring at something across a room. He puts his phone down on a table and a minute later cannot find it.
His marriage collapsed. The woman who once blogged about the recovery of “my superman” now speaks to him only about their children, he said.
“The person that was there, he’s no longer here,” Suzanne Laboy, Peter’s ex-wife, said. “He’s not the same person anymore. . . . It put a horrible strain on our relationship.”
She said she worries not about her family’s safety, but the ability of the children to process Bashir’s possible release.
According to Laboy, the hospital said Bashir has had no episodes since he was institutionalized and responded well to medicine. He is already allowed to leave the hospital for religious services and recreational activities, Laboy said.
He is skeptical that Bashir was entirely unaware of his actions or renounced them once he was in his right mind, because he fled the scene and never cooperated with law enforcement.
John Hinckley Jr., Laboy notes, wasn’t released from a mental hospital until 35 years after he shot President Ronald Reagan.
“I cannot compare myself to Reagan,” Laboy said, cracking a smile. “But . . . I was this close” to death, he said, holding his thumb and forefinger nearly touching. “I was this close.”