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Published: Friday, 3/16/2012

Judge to rule on case involving police officer shot by another


A Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge will decide whether Toledo police Sgt. Gloria Burks intentionally or recklessly shot a fellow officer in the arm or whether she was unaware of the wrongfulness of her actions because of a seizure disorder.

The criminal trial for Sergeant Burks concluded Friday and the case was presented to Judge Myron Duhart for a verdict.

The sergeant is charged with felonious assault with a gun specification and an alternative charge of assault. She is accused of shooting Sgt. Jeffery Bechtel in the arm Sept. 20, 2010, at the Scott Park district station.

Eight witnesses testified over a period of three days, including Sergeant Bechtel, who was shot through his right tricep. He said that he was confronted by Sergeant Burks, who had her service weapon aimed at him, although she said nothing and appeared dazed.

During closing arguments, assistant prosecutors told Judge Duhart that it was undisputed that Sergeant Burks shot Sergeant Bechtel and that she had previously been diagnosed with a seizure disorder. They argued that epilepsy — defined as two or more seizures — is a medical condition and not a mental disease.

Because Sergeant Burks was aware of her condition and had been warned at least three times by her treating neurologist not to drive a car or carry a firearm, she was reckless in disregarding the risks.

Defense attorneys countered that two licensed psychologists said that because she was suffering from a seizure at the time of the incident, Sergeant Burks was not aware of the wrongfulness of her actions and so meets the legal definition of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The defense stressed that Sergeant Burks’ mental state before the incident was inconsequential because a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity must be made if it is determined that she was unaware of her actions at the time.

After closing arguments, defense attorneys made a motion asking Judge Duhart to also consider the misdemeanor charge of negligent assault. The judge granted time for assistant prosecutors to oppose the motion and set a Monday hearing to inform the parties whether he will consider the lesser offense while deliberating.

It is unclear when the judge will return his verdict.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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