For years, Alexandria police officer Peter Laboy was a regular fixture at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy in Old Town, where he used to drop off one of his young sons for school and became well known for his friendliness and willingness to let kids see the inside of his cruiser.
Laboy was shot in the head by a cabdriver near the school playground Wednesday afternoon during a routine traffic stop, authorities say, and he is now fighting for his life.
“It’s like our own policeman was hurt,” said Heather Cirmo, a parent who used to see Laboy at Lyles-Crouch, a public elementary school.
Laboy’s son graduated from the school a few years ago, but people said that they would still see him around and that they felt connected to the officer, a 17-year member of the force who has three other children.
A doctor said Thursday that the officer had suffered a “catastrophic wound” and that most people would not have survived such a traumatic brain injury. The bullet entered his temple, fragmented and hit the part of his brain that controls speech and arm and leg movement, said Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer for MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
“It’s actually quite remarkable he’s alive,” Orlowski said. “Obviously, he’s a very fit gentleman.”
The man accused of firing at him, Kashif Bashir, 27, was arrested shortly after the shooting at the end of a police chase. He was being held without bond Thursday morning and was assigned a public defender. He is scheduled to return to court April 10 for a preliminary hearing.
Police were still searching for a motive, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille said.
“I would like to think this is an isolated situation where the driver had some personal issues and . . . he had the mind-set to do harm to himself or someone else,” Euille said. “Unfortunately, it happened to be a police officer.”
Bashir came to the attention of police Tuesday after women working at a boutique off King Street complained that he had made them uncomfortable by getting too close to them in the shop, authorities said.
The cabdriver went to the store again late Wednesday morning, and after he left, employees called police and told officers in which direction they saw him go, authorities said.
Laboy, a motorcycle officer, found the cab several blocks away, near the elementary school, where children were playing outside about noon. It was unclear what kind of exchange the two men had, but police say Bashir shot Laboy.
“It’s a tragic thing to happen to somebody who has dedicated his life to helping others,” said Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who worked with Laboy when Lawhorne was a city police officer. He said they became friendly when they were on the hostage negotiation team.
Sgt. Brian Thompson, Laboy’s immediate supervisor, said Laboy was not assigned to the call that resulted in his shooting and just happened to be in the area.
“He is the kind of guy who always goes the extra mile and is the first person to volunteer,” Thompson said.
Other officers said that Laboy, a bilingual hostage negotiator, recently talked a distraught veteran out of committing suicide in the Foxchase area of the city.
Laboy’s former partner in the detective bureau, Lt. Ed Milner, described Laboy as a “true traffic cop.”
“His peers are shocked, devastated. Feelings run the gamut,” Milner said. “He is truly loved. He has a lot of friends.”
Bashir, who has a criminal record that includes traffic violations and an assault charge, is a Woodbridge resident. A next-door neighbor said he believed that Bashir had been living with relatives. He did not know them well.
“They’re not secretive. They just stick to themselves,” said the neighbor, who declined to give his name.
Bashir had been a driver for Alexandria Yellow Cab for about four years, said Kyle Summers, the company’s general manager. He said that Bashir and his father rented a cab together and that both were drivers.
Bashir was not on duty when the shooting occurred and had not worked at all that morning, Summers said.
“I’ve been absolutely shocked by this,” he said. “In all my interactions with him, he’s been polite, pleasant and friendly. I can’t recall a complaint against him.”
Summers said that he was “heartbroken for the officer and his family” and that “the many dedicated drivers in this industry . . . are devastated about what happened to this officer.”
Jeremy Borden contributed to this report.