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Published: Tuesday, 3/20/2012

Judge rules sergeant not guilty in shooting

Duhart finds insanity in injury to colleague

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sgt. Gloria Burks confers with attorney Jane Roman in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in Toledo. Sgt. Gloria Burks confers with attorney Jane Roman in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in Toledo.
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A Toledo police sergeant who, while experiencing a seizure, shot a colleague at the Scott Park district is not guilty by reason of insanity, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge ruled Monday.

Gloria Burks, 51, was charged with felonious assault with a gun specification and an alternative charge of assault for the Sept. 20, 2010, shooting of Sgt. Jeffery Bechtel once through the right arm. Judge Myron Duhart ruled that Sergeant Burks was suffering from a mental defect at the time of the shooting and so was not aware of the "wrongfulness of her actions."

"The court finds that at the time of the commission of the event [Sergeant Burks] did not know the wrongfulness of actions," Judge Duhart said. "The court finds that the defendant, Gloria Burks, is not guilty by reason of insanity."

Sergeant Burks was referred to the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center for an evaluation to determine whether she is subject to hospitalization. Judge Duhart set a March 28 hearing date for results of the evaluation.

Surrounded by friends and family, Sergeant Burks left the courtroom without comment. Her attorneys, Jane Roman and Deborah Rump, also declined to comment.

Judge Duhart began considering the issue after the close of a three-day trial Friday. Because Sergeant Burks waived her right to a jury trial, Judge Duhart weighed the testimony in the case. At issue was whether Burks was not aware of her actions because she was suffering from a seizure at the time or if she was reckless or purposeful because she was warned by her treating neurologist not to drive a car or carry a gun.

Nine witnesses testified over three days, including Sergeant Bechtel, who said he was shot in the tricep while removing gear at the end of a normal work day. Also testifying was Deputy Chief Diana Ruiz-Krause, who said that Sergeant Burks did not respond to several oral commands to lower her weapon and that she physically removed the gun from Sergeant Burks' hands and guided her to a seat.

Two clinical psychologists — one called by the court, the other by the defense — testified that in their opinions Sergeant Burks was in an altered state of consciousness and was unaware of her actions.

Bob Stinson of Twin Valley Behavioral Heath Care and Charlene Cassel of the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center independently testified Sergeant Burks fit the legal definition of not guilty by reason of insanity because a seizure made her unaware of the wrongfulness of her actions.

Also testifying were two neurologists, including the doctor treating Sergeant Burks as well an expert called as a rebuttal witness to Ms. Cassel's findings. Dr. Vicki Ramsey-Williams testified that Sergeant Burks was diagnosed with partial complex seizures and on at least three different occasions she was warned not to drive and not to carry a gun.

The doctor said it was Sergeant Burks' responsibility to report her restrictions to both the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and her employer. Authorities said she did not.

Prosecutor Julia Bates said, because of the incident, Sergeant Burks' medical condition has become known and "hopefully no one else will ever be put in harm's way."

"We put the facts on as we knew them to be. The trier of fact, in the case the judge, made the determination that this was the appropriate resolution," Mrs. Bates said. She added that there had been a "great potential of harm," both by driving a car and carrying a gun, and that restrictions are likely to be applied.

Sergeant Bechtel has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Toledo against the city, Mayor Mike Bell, former police Chief Mike Navarre, and Sergeant Burks. The case is pending before Judge Jack Zouhary.

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



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