The trial for a Toledo police sergeant charged with shooting a fellow officer while on duty began in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Wednesday and is expected to last through the end of the week.
Gloria Burks, 51, is charged with felonious assault with a gun specification and an alternative charge of assault. She is accused of shooting Sgt. Jeffrey Bechtel in the arm during a Sept. 20, 2010, incident at the department’s Scott Park district station.
Sergeant Bechtel testified that he had been friends with Sergeant Burks during their more than 20 years on the department together. He said that nothing prompted the shooting and that he was surprised to find Sergeant Burks facing him with her gun pointed at him.
Sergeant Bechtel was shot once in the right arm. He said he underwent more than a year of physical therapy and has only recently returned to full active duty.
During opening statements, Assistant County Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson said that Sergeant Burks had previously been working in a light duty capacity because of health issues. It was during this time — between 2007 and April, 2010 — that she had been diagnosed as having a seizure disorder.
Sergeant Burks was eventually taken off light duty. She was given a doctor’s authorization to return to full service after reporting that she had been seizure-free for six months, Mr. Anderson said. She failed to tell her doctor that she had been involved in a motor vehicle crash that occurred when she was likely having a seizure, he added.
Prior to the shooting incident, Mr. Anderson said she was advised by her doctor to get a job where she was not required to carry a gun or drive a car.
“She completely ignored these risk factors and went back to work and drove a car and carried a weapon,” Mr. Anderson said. “Then on Sept. 20, 2010, what she had been warned about happened.”
Attorney Jane Roman countered during opening statements that at the time of the shooting, Sergeant Burks was not aware of the wrongfulness of her actions. Noting that a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity had been filed on Jan. 6 for the sergeant, Ms. Roman said that reports of two separate evaluators indicated that Sergeant Burks “was not able to appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions.”
Because the victim was a peace officer, Sergeant Burks faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted of assault and up to 10 years in prison if convicted of felonious assault. The gun specification would add an additional three years.
Prior to starting the trial, Sergeant Burks waived her right to a jury trial and instead asked that the case be heard by Judge Myron Duhart.
Contact Erica Blake at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.